Category Archives: Roll Models

A Winter Bicycling Day in Denver

Hello!  I am just back from a quick trip to Denver this weekend to visit Melissa.  Yesterday she and I grabbed bikes out of the garage (I rode her husband Chanh’s Huffy and she rode her Raleigh “Black Beauty”) for a relaxing ride around the neighborhood.

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So, yeah, in Denver a ride around “the neighborhood” can be pretty darn amazing.

This beautiful scenery is in the city.  After leaving Melissa’s house and crossing a calm and well-marked street or two…

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…Melissa led me down a lovely trail through a huge park.

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As you can see, winter bicycling in Denver is not like winter bicycling in Chicago.  The bright sun and extremely clear sky were super bright, especially coming as I was from the dark and grey world of Chicago.  Good thing I had my big sunglasses.

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A couple of details: the cool bell on my bike and Melissa’s cute biking shoes.

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The park area where we were biking actually used to be an air force base, which this huge plane commemorates.

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Some areas built up in place of the old base look a bit too suburban pre-fab for my taste, but overall it is a beautiful environment.

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We took a break from our ride to enjoy a refreshment at a beer garden.  I love the beer culture in Denver!

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Finally, we got a quick picture together before heading home.

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The day before our bike adventure, we explored the town of Golden, Colorado on foot.

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Where I guess they appreciate bicyclists!

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This town is where Coors is brewed, but we chose to visit a couple of smaller breweries instead.  First, Golden City.  Their sign cracks me up.

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Then an ice cream intermission for this little guy (his first!).

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(He’s like – “Why are you poking me in the head, Auntie Dottie?”  Because I can, baby!)

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And then a walk in the fresh air to the second brewery, Mountain Toad.

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Good times!  We make a good bike-riding, beer-drinking, baby-playing team.  :)

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As I write this, I am back in Chicago: snowy, freezing, and Melissa-less.  So sad!  I’m sure I’ll be back in beautiful Denver again in the next year.

For previous Colorado adventures, see Brewery Bike Tour in Fort Collins and B-Cycling in Denver.

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Roll Models: Samantha of Ding Ding Let’s Ride

The Roll Models series is back!  Today’s roll model is my friend Samantha, cool woman and author of the blog Ding Ding Let’s Ride, which focuses on everyday family bicycling with Dutch bikes and adaptive bikes.

Describe your bicycling style in three words.

Urban.
Everyday.
Dresses.
Cowboy boots.

(OK – so that’s 4 words, but I wanted to convey that I often wear dresses when I ride, but I’m
not a total cycle chic girly-girl and often wear pants and cowboy boots.  ;-) )

How long have you been riding a bike?

I’ve been riding a bike since I was a kid. I had a lime-green banana-seat kid’s bike, followed by
a 3-speed upright bike with a basket that I rode into my early teens. I didn’t ride much until grad
school when I started up again with a mountain bike. I haven’t stopped for the last 20+ years.

How does bicycling fit into and/or shape your life?

My bike is my primary form of transportation. I commute via bike to work year-round, run
errands and grocery shop on my bike, go on evenings out by bike, and ride to events and
activities with my family on my bike.

What inspires you to keep bicycling?

I love the city of Chicago, and riding a bike is the best way to experience it. I feel better
mentally and physically when I ride, even on cold, dreary, blustery days and I don’t ever want to
give up that feeling.

In your experience, does the general bicycling world – shops, outreach, group rides, etc. -
feel welcoming for you as a woman?

I think the overall attitude in the bicycling world these days is fairly welcoming to women. There
are certain shops or groups that feel a bit like a boys club sometime, but there are also so many
different kinds of bikes, riders, and events these days that I think you can find the place that is
right for you. I’ve never felt excluded from cycling businesses or events because I was a woman.

What is your take on the “gender gap” in cycling, including media attention on how to get
more women to bicycle?

The way to get more women riding is to make cycling safer and it has to truly be perceived
as safer too. I’m not the first one to say that – but I’ll be glad to repeat it. And “Safer” to me
means more truly separated bike lanes with lights, and more education/public awareness of
how motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians should interact on public ways. I really do think that
the next thing the city of Chicago should do is develop a long-term bike awareness campaign
that demonstrates how one should approach an intersection with a cyclist on either side, make
a turn, handle protected bike lanes, door zones, etc. I’m happy about the bike infrastructure
improvements we’re seeing, but now we need to teach people how to use this new infrastructure
and how to walk/bike/drive in conjunction with it.

If you could magically change one thing to improve bicycling in your city, what would it
be?

I would make all the buffered or ‘protected’ bike lanes in this city into truly separated bike lanes
with real dividers – perhaps like the curbs and planters I’ve seen in Long Beach CA.

Do you feel optimistic about the future of bicycling?

I feel very optimistic about the future of bicycling. I see more people cycling all the time. Each
winter here in Chicago I see more people continue to ride through the cold months than the year
before. That’s a great thing.

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Any advice for people, especially women, who want to start cycling?

Start out in your comfort zone. If you haven’t been riding at all, you may want to start out riding
on recreational paths or side streets – don’t expect to ride in downtown traffic the first time you
get on a bike. If you’re looking for a bike, research a few different bike shops – find one that
carries the type of bike you think you’ll be interested in, and one with a staff that is welcoming
and helpful to you and not just trying to push you into any ole bike purchase.

Final words?

There are a lot of women who are biking in Chicago and writing about it so don’t be afraid to contact any of us and ask questions. We all ride for different reasons and with different styles, on different bikes, but we all share the same desire to get more cyclists out there and we are always willing to share our own experiences and knowledge to further that goal.

I certainly second that! Thanks so much to Samantha for sharing her experience, thoughts, and advice with us!  For more, visit Ding Ding Let’s Ride and follow her on Twitter.

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Paris Opera Ballet Picnic

{Our Roll Models series will return next Tuesday, after the holiday.  In its place today is a little story about a beautiful night out in Chicago.  Have a great Independence Day, Americans!}

On Wednesday, I enjoyed a free showing of the ballet Giselle, performed by the Paris Opera Ballet, in Chicago’s amazing Millennium Park.  The performance was a live telecast from a nearby theatre and the acoustics in the pavilion were wonderful.

The advantage of seeing a ballet on the lawn instead of in the theatre is laying out a picnic blanket and enjoying some wine and cheese in the fresh air.

A picnic is more fun when shared, so I gathered together my friends Sara and Jerry, Gigi and Chika, Maria and Seth (and Glenn, not pictured :-).

As the sun set in time for the second act, and the 90 degree heat lifted, the pavilion took on a magical feel, with shining city lights all around.

The group of us biked home together up the Lakefront Trail under the night sky.  A beautiful end to a beautiful night.  Jumping on the L train just would not have been right.  :)

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Roll Model: Lauren in Nashville

As part of the new LGRAB, every Tuesday we will profile an inspiring everyday cyclist—a weekly series called “Roll Models.”

This week’s Roll Model is Lauren T., who rides here in Nashville. If Lauren looks familiar to you, it’s because she’s been a loyal attendee of bike brunches and events here in Nashville since the very beginning (well, that, and she wrote a terrific guest review of the Lululemon crops).  The photos she chose here do a great job of illustrating her lively, adventurous personality and the fun she has riding her bike. Not shown: Her penchant for colorful language, apparently reserved for those of us who have the privilege of knowing her personally! Read on for Lauren’s take on the bike scene in Nashville.

Describe your bicycling style in three words.

colorful, fearless, inventive

How long have you been riding a bike?

I’ve been cycling for about 2 years. Of course, I had a bicycle when I was a kid, and I loved riding it everywhere, but I stopped when I got my driver’s license… and forgot everything. It is possible to forget how to ride a bike, I don’t care what anyone says! I had to re-learn in my back yard. I promptly rode straight into a bush and tipped over. Fortunately, it gets much easier after that :)

 

At bike to work day 2012

How does bicycling fit into and/or shape your life?

I do have a car, but I try to ride my bike at least a couple of times a week – for exercise, less gas consumption, a stress reliever, and also because it’s just fun. I only live about 5 miles from my office so this actually pretty feasible. A little less than a year ago, my truck died (like, needed a new engine died) during a long weekend… and I wasn’t nearly as bummed as I thought I would be, since I knew my bike would get me where I needed to go (and the public transit could pick up the slack!). I spent about a month getting around via bike and bus before I found a replacement truck… and the whole process was actually kind of fun! Not to mention I had the luxury of taking my sweet leisurely time in picking out something in my budget that wasn’t a piece of junk, instead of just grabbing the first deal that came my way. I’m not quite at the point where I’m willing to entirely give up my car, but I’m definitely heading in that direction!

What inspires you to keep bicycling?

As dorky as it sounds, the wonderful feeling I get from cycling is what keeps me going. I love the feeling of freedom, of propelling myself with the strength of my own two legs. And, you know, it feels pretty dang good to roll up at some giant festival downtown & lock my bike to the nearest rack – instead of paying $15 to park my car (and get stuck in traffic crawls when all is said and done!).

In your experience, does the general bicycling world—shops, outreach, group rides, etc.—feel welcoming for you as a woman?

In my city – absolutely! I think this city & all the little bike gangs around do their best to make sure everyone is included – both women and men. I’ve never felt stupid or looked down on for wandering into a bike shop & asking dumb questions. My commute has lots of interactions with male cyclists – the kind who are head to toe in colorful spandex on top of a really expensive bike – and we all chat each other up & offer words of encouragement. I may be rolling around on a spray painted Frankenbike, but I’ve never felt like I was inferior because of that, or because I am a lady cyclist.

Lauren in a cycling jacket she sewed

What is your take on the “gender gap” in cycling, including media attention on how to get more women to bicycle?

I don’t see much of a gender gap – maybe I’m just oblivious to it. Wouldn’t be the first time!

If you could magically change one thing to improve bicycling in your city, what would it be?

I think the single most important thing we need here is education – lots and lots of education. Education for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. We all need to learn how to share the roads – they are there for all vehicles, not just ones that use gasoline :) I’d say that the majority of my problems from cycling around in the city are from driver ignorance — whether they are passing too close because they don’t know better, or maybe they didn’t know they couldn’t park in the bike lane, and even a lot of the road rage toward cyclists. Nope, me cycling in the street is not illegal, sorry!

Lauren at the Tour de Fat

Do you feel optimistic about the future of bicycling?

Oh, yes! I really do think we are heading toward a more sustainable lifestyle – and bicycling is definitely a big part of that. Seeing all the progress that my city is pushing toward pedestrians & cyclists absolutely makes me feel optimistic about the future.

Any advice for people, especially women, who want to start cycling?

Starting out can be intimidating & scary, but it will get easier the more you ride! You don’t need something overly fancy/expensive to start, just make sure you have the seat at the right height & that you feel comfortable on your bike. I started out by riding in circles around my block (and tipping over every single time I tried to turn the bike, haha), and then working up to tiny ½ – 1 mile rides down the road – until I was at the point where I could comfortably ride all the way to my office. I was very timid when I started – I wouldn’t even bike around my neighborhood solo, too scared! – but now I’m kind of fearless. I’ll bike anywhere, for any distance, and I’ll even do it in a skirt! Yeah!

Final words?

My riding mantra is, “If I was in a hurry, I’d take my car.” Slow down and enjoy the ride! Otherwise – what’s the point? :)

Thanks Lauren! For more about Lauren, visit her sewing blog, Lladybird, and be wowed by her stitchery talent. She’s currently helping me sew a skirt.  In the three months I’ve been working on it off and on with her, she’s completed approximately a dozen outfits. 

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Roll Models: Sara of Full Hands

Every Tuesday we will profile an inspiring everyday cyclist—a weekly series called “Roll Models.”  

This week’s Roll Model is Sara Armstrong of Full Hands. Dottie and I have been following Sara’s blog since we first started writing our own, and her spirited accounts of life on two wheels with her husband and three sons in New Haven, Connecticut, are entertaining and inspiring. The Armstrongs are such dedicated cargo bike enthusiasts that they’ve even designed their own cargo-bike themed T-shirts (my favorite slogan: think inside the baks), and they recently participated in the Five Boro Bike Ride in New York City. Read on for Sara’s story in her own words.

Collecting the Christmas tree by bike

Describe your bicycling style in three words.
Style? Hard to describe anything about me as “style” as I am all about comfort, practicality and ease. Oh, that’s three words! Mama of three are my other three essential bike riding descriptors.

How long have you been riding a bike?
Outside of my suburban childhood bike jaunts, I did not ride much as adult until February 2009 when our first cargo bike, a Dutch bakfiets, joined our family. For the past three+ years, we have been committed family bicyclists and our bicycle stable has grown to include other cargo bikes: an Xtracycle Radish and a Yuba Mundo.

How does bicycling fit into and/or shape your life?
We ride. That’s just how we get around. Bicycling has enriched my family’s life immensely. On the practical side, it has allowed us to remain a one-car family. On the unexpected-benefits side, bicycling has made us much more in-touch, involved and aware community members. When out on our bikes, we notice so much more than we did when we were always in the car. We engage with more people, some of whom we likely would not have had much contact with if we were not bicycling throughout our city. We can stop easily when something catches our eye, investigate what suddenly interests us, and never need to worry about parking! Bicycling is fun and freeing.

At the Five Boro ride


What inspires you to keep bicycling?
Much of the time, it is just as easy to bicycle locally than to drive, often more so. One point of inspiration is certainly my children. I like that they see bicycling as a valid, and even normal, form of transportation. Perhaps they will not grow up to be bicycle commuters themselves, but they will always know that a bike can take you where you need to go.

In your experience, does the general bicycling world—shops, outreach, group rides, etc.—feel welcoming for you as a woman?
I feel extremely lucky as the bicycling world here in New Haven has been very welcoming. Our local bike advocacy group, Elm City Cycling, has a number of very active women. Our local bike shop has a female bike mechanic. In fact this shop, The Devil’s Gear, has been incredible cheerleaders and champions of our family bicycling adventures. Even though I still cannot always talk the ‘technical’ bikey stuff, the folks there have treated me with respect and helped out whenever I needed it. And truthfully, our local bike shop is one of the few stores that it is easy to go into with three boys with me! The Devil’s Gear people put up with my guys’ high energy, innumerable questions, and unquenchable desire to test out every bike horn, numerous times. However, the truth is that I don’t attend Elm City Cycling meetings or most monthly Critical Mass Rides, but not because I don’t feel welcome as a woman. The timing of these events just does not work out with my life as a parent of younger children.

What is your take on the “gender gap” in cycling, including media attention on how to get more women to bicycle?
I honestly am not sure what to make of the gender gap. I do know a number of women who as mothers are responsible for much of their kids’ transport, getting them to school, activities, birthday parties, etc. Many of them cannot even begin to imagine that is doable by bike. Cargo bikes have allowed my family to do many of these same things, but I have three children and if my husband were not willing to be out there hauling the boys by bike too, and I had to be solely responsible for getting my sons to all the places they need to be, we would be in the car. Of course, this is more of a parenting issue than solely a gender one. Fathers who take on much of the activity/school running would face the same car vs. bike dilemma, especially with multiple children.

Biking to the first day of school

I hesitate to make any sort of statement about perceived dangers of bicycling and risk aversion and linking that to one gender or the other. My mom was an incredibly tough woman (seven children in 10 years!) and my five sisters are extremely strong and brave. I have, however, heard from multiple female friends that they would be more apt to bike commute if our city had bicycling infrastructure that made them feel more comfortable out there on their bikes instead of having to ride always on the streets with car traffic. I have no doubt though that there are men who feel the same.

If you could magically change one thing to improve bicycling in your city, what would it be?
While I am thankful for my city’s investment in painting sharrows on many local roads, I must admit that I do lust after those protected bike lanes that are in some other cities. Then I would feel more comfortable with my older sons riding for transportation, not just for recreation. My nine-year-olds are quite capable bicyclists, but our city’s infrastructure does not allow them to ride themselves easily to school as our route takes us right through downtown. We have been working on street riding on the weekends when the car traffic is lighter, but during the week we are still mostly hauling them on our cargo bikes.

And while I know this question asks for just “one thing,” I must mention that I would also magically like to change many drivers’ attitudes about driving a car. I would love to see all drivers recognize what a big deal it is to drive a car—that it is a primary activity that requires vigilance and concentration, not a secondary activity to talking on the phone, texting, doing one’s hair, whatever. This would improve all of our lives: drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists alike. And to be clear, I, too, drive a car, so I try to live up to this standard.

Do you feel optimistic about the future of bicycling?
I do feel quite optimistic about the future of bicycling. In the past three years since we became family bike commuters, we’ve seen quite a noticeable increase in bike riding in New Haven and a very active family bicycling community grow on the Internet. The more of us out riding, I know it prompts others to think, “Hey, maybe I could do that, too.” We are no longer the nutty family out there on our cargo bikes (OK, maybe we still are) as there is a real cargo bike presence in town here. Sure, some folks still react in amazement and ask tons of questions when they see us hauling our kids on these cool bikes, but now we get hear more of, “Hey, nice Xtracycle!” or “Wow, you have a Yuba!”

Bicycle towing


Any advice for people, especially women, who want to start cycling?
Two basics for me: Find a bicycling buddy and start small.

When figuring out riding, reach out to another bicyclist. Perhaps you can go for a ride together before you strike out on your own or before you add kids to the mix if you are a family bicyclist. Maybe this bikey friend can help plan a good route to get to the library that doesn’t take you on streets too busy with auto traffic. Ask to try out another’s cargo bike. Ride together to camp or school drop-off.  Even if you cannot find a cyclist right down the street, go ahead and reach out to others via the web. When we first started family bike commuting, the folks we met through the Internet were invaluable. We asked their advice and looked to them for inspiration. We have found fellow bike folks, both local and virtual, to be extremely generous and open to our many questions.

To quote from the U.S. Secretary of Transportation’s blog, Fast Lanes,

“High gas prices are hitting American families in their wallets and pockets pretty hard these days.  But did you know that more than 40 percent of urban trips in the United States are less than two miles, yet 90 percent of those short trip are taken by car?”

Go ahead and plan to take a bike ride once a week to start. Think about one of those less-than-two-mile trips when you normally might take a car. Find a route on streets where you are comfortable riding. The more you are out there on your bike, the more you’ll feel comfortable doing on your bike. Likewise, the more bicyclists out there on the road, the safer it is for all.  So take that one trip to start. Make sure your gear is in good working order and you have all those provisions you need, kids’ snacks, sippy cups, etc. including a U-Lock (really, make this a part of your investment).  However, it doesn’t matter how long you ride for or how far you go, just give it a try.

Final words?
Just have fun! While many can point to the numerous benefits—financial, health-wise, environmental, etc.—of bicycling, when I am out there on my bike, I am often just having fun. Riding is a joyous experience.

{ Thanks Sara! For more on biking as a family of five, check out Full Hands. }

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Roll Model: Martha Williams of Bike Fancy

I am very excited to share this week’s Roll Model: Martha Williams of the fabulous blog Bike Fancy, showing “people looking good on bikes.”  Martha, a professional photographer for Time Out Chicago magazine, has created a unique website that goes far beyond simply posting snapshots of bicyclists on the street.  She flags each person down, introduces herself, makes an intentional portrait, and follows up with an email interview.  There is no wonder how Martha earns the trust of strangers on the street: she is one of the sweetest and most welcoming people I know.  If anyone can put you at ease while taking your picture to share on the internet, it’s Martha.  She is also an experienced transportation bicyclist.  Read on to learn more about Martha, biking fancy, and the importance of Vitamin D and divided bike lanes.

Martha and her bike

Describe your bicycling style in three words.

Surprisingly stylish schleper

How long have you been riding a bike?

Well, I’ve been riding a bike in Chicago over ten years. I learned to ride a bike in third grade, which was shamefully late for a suburban kid. Our neighbor (who was the same age) taught me and my twin sister when she found out we didn’t know how to ride. I have a big family and buying two bikes and teaching two kids to ride a bike was too much at the time. After that, we borrowed our older sisters bike, and then went straight to ten speeds, no kiddie bikes.

How does bicycling fit into and/or shape your life?

I’ve modified my job to be doable by bike. I commute most days, in all weather. I also ride my bike to most of my photo shoots for work. I feel much more efficient when I can ride. I can get from my office, to the North Loop, then Taylor St, and end in Wicker Park in half the time it would take to ride public transportation or drive.

Martha and her bike

What inspires you to keep bicycling?

I don’t know if it is mental, experiential, physiological, physical, or church-of-the-wheel-spiritual, but biking makes me indescribably happy. So the selfish pursuit of happiness is my inspiration. Also, less pollution, great light that changes everyday, not getting a Vitamin D deficiency, saving money to travel!

Tell us about Bike Fancy - how it came to be, your goals for the site, and what you’ve learned about the Chicago bicycling community through the process.

When I started Bike Fancy I was full-on in love with riding my bike in the city, and I wanted to find a way to share those feelings. At first I thought that I might write a first person account of riding in the city, but I realized there were people already doing that really well (Dottie and Trisha among others!), I’m not a great writer, and I am really not interested in my own perspective, at least not in a way that could sustain a blog. I was familiar with the Copenhagen Cycle Chic blog, and was completely obsessed with the Sartorialist. I had also photographed for Time Out Chicago’s public eye article (where I am a photo editor) on occasion. I realized that because I was riding around the city most days that I was uniquely positioned to document cyclists. I really wanted to address the cycling gender gap in a positive way, and show that anyone can ride a bike in the city. No need to be an athletic person, wear special clothes, or be a dude.

Fancy Cyclist Anne

I have loved getting to know the Chicago bicycling community through this blog. I have met lots of interesting people, learned about inspiring organizations, and built lots of relationships. That said, I randomly stop strangers so that I can include people that don’t consider themselves part of the cycling community. In Amsterdam and Copenhagen there is no “bicycling community,” because everyone rides a bike. I love that in the span of a few weeks I could stop a brand new rider, an experienced rider from a local racing team, and everyone in between.

Fancy Cyclist Sojourner

I have lots of goals for the site, but firstly I’d love to make a sleeker design for the site with a few more bells and whistles. Secondly, I feel constantly challenged to show a diverse range of women: age, race, neighborhood, body type, social group, etc. My goal is always to find a diverse range of fashionable women, but I’m only one person. Also, I love to travel, so photographing as many places as possible is up there.

In your experience, does the general bicycling world – shops, outreach, group rides, etc. – feel welcoming for you as a woman?

I think the general bicycling world feels very welcoming.

Fancy Winter Cyclist Cheyenne

What is your take on the “gender gap” in cycling, including media attention on how to get more women to bicycle?

Well I think those statistics are a few years old and if they were done now you would see the gap narrowing. That said– I do see a lot more men out there, and I am looking! I think women, generally speaking, are more risk adverse and cycling in a city with limited infrastructure can be really terrifying. I think most people want a stress-free commute and getting buzzed by a giant truck, or left-hooked by someone talking on their cell phone is not “stress-free.”

If you could magically change one thing to improve bicycling in your city, what would it be?

Divided bike lanes! I ride State St. a lot and there is a perfect amount of space for a 2-way bike lane right down the middle of it. It could go all the way from 95th to North Ave, but I’d be happy with a lane from Roosevelt to Kinzie.

Fancy Cyclist Tracy

Do you feel optimistic about the future of bicycling?

For sure. I think it is a no-brainer, especially with rising gas prices, the obesity epidemic, and increased urbanization. Also, I’ll share a little secret— a lot of people find it addictive.

Any advice for people, especially women, who want to start cycling?

Start slow, know where you are going so you can feel confident and calm.

Final words?

I think I wrote too much already : ) Okay I take that back. I am in the market for a new bike. Under $800, a fast lady frame, upright handlebars, a rack that matches the frame. I’m looking at the Linus but might just do a vintage custom build. Taking recommendations!

Martha at work

Thanks for sharing your perspective, Martha!

Visit Martha at Bike Fancy to see new portraits several times a week. 

Roll Models: Sarah W. of Nashville

As part of the new LGRAB, every Tuesday we will profile an inspiring everyday cyclist—a weekly series called “Roll Models.”  

This week’s roll model is my friend Sarah W. Despite being a relatively new cyclist, Sarah is unafraid to plunge into group rides and is a loyal attendee of our monthly bike brunches. I admire her positive attitude, her adventurous spirit and her incredible knitting skills. Read on for Sarah’s take on Nashville cycling.

Sarah and her Raleigh

Describe your bicycling style in three words.
Slow, upright, regal (last one according to my husband, Paul).

How long have you been riding a bike?
I rode a bit as a kid and teenager, took a long hiatus, and then started again in November 2011. I feel like a new cyclist!

How does bicycling fit into and/or shape your life?
Biking is something I look forward to in the short-term, what I’m doing in the new few weeks, and also in the long-term, because I plan on pursuing it wherever I live in the future. I currently ride mostly on weekends and to my Tuesday night knitting group, which consists primarily of me and Lauren, who also rides. I live in an older part of Nashville that has quiet residential streets and some bike lanes. My husband saw how much fun I was having, and we got him a bike about a month after I started. He loves riding too!

Sarah cycling in Venice Beach last month

What inspires you to keep bicycling?
I ride for enjoyment, but I do have some loose goals: to better my handling and endurance, for example. I am inspired by the many Nashville biking women I know, and I enjoy bike blogs, like Let’s Go Ride a Bike and Lovely Bicycle. I love soaking in my surroundings at a leisurely pace and feeling the wind as I ride–that seems pretty universal!

In your experience, does the general bicycling world—shops, outreach, group rides, etc.—feel welcoming for you as a woman?
So far, so good. I know a lot of women who ride. The shop I frequent most often makes me feel welcome and like I can pull up a stool and chat.

What is your take on the “gender gap” in cycling, including media attention on how to get more women to bicycle?
I’m not sure I have a great answer to the “woman problem.” I do think more women would ride if they felt safe on the roads and there was adequate bike parking where they wanted to go.

Sarah's Raleigh parked at the Frist Center in Nashville

If you could magically change one thing to improve bicycling in your city, what would it be?
I’d make drivers alert and cautious around bikers. Also, I’d like slightly elevated bike lanes everywhere like in Copenhagen, and separate intersection lights for bikes. And flat streets. Magic!

Do you feel optimistic about the future of bicycling?
Yes! I think it’s growing so much and even if biking is not for everyone, I know my friends who do not bike now have cyclists on their minds: one friend told me she now checks the bike lane before making turns so she doesn’t accidentally turn in front of a cyclist. Yay!

Sarah and her beach cruiser at the start of the Rhinestone Cowboy Ride

Any advice for people, especially women, who want to start cycling?
Here’s what worked for me: I bought an inexpensive used bike and took baby steps. First, I walked the bike to an empty church parking lot down the street and rode around. Then I rode down a little street and back one day—wow. Soon I had found a short neighborhood route, which I still like. I use Google Maps’s biking directions sometimes. They are pretty good. I’ve also read many books about biking, which were educational and inspiring.

Final words?
I started biking because I saw a gorgeous bike on craigslist that I had to have—all other bikes left me cold. I also was feeling like a big couch potato. I do a lot of crafting, but my hands began to hurt. When I stopped crafting altogether, I felt like I was doing nothing on the weekends. I needed to get out of the house, but driving to and shopping at the mall wasn’t the answer. I’d been reading a fitness/weight loss blog whose writer bikes everywhere around Brooklyn and Manhattan—she looked so cool and like she was having fun. If you’re thinking about biking, go for it!

{Thanks, Sarah! See you at the next bike brunch. }

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Roll Model: Sam of Brown Girl in the Lane

As part of the new LGRAB, every Tuesday we will profile an inspiring everyday cyclist—a weekly series called “Roll Models.”

This week’s Roll Model is Sam (also known as Beany) from Brown Girl in the Lane. Dottie and I have had the pleasure of meeting Sam in persontwice!—during visits to San Diego. If you’re wondering if she’s as idiosyncratic and charmingly acerbic in person as she is on her blog, the answer is emphatically YES! Sam is the only person I know who has moved cross-country by bike, and she always emphasizes how empowering and enjoyable riding a bike can be. We’re honored to share more about her with you. (For those of you who don’t know her blog, Sam doesn’t post photos of herself—but all photos in this post were taken by her.)

 

A rare bird—female cyclist in San Diego

Describe your bicycling style in three words.
Comfortable, fun and quirky

How long have you been riding a bike?
Since I was 5. I’m 31 now. So about 26 years.

Describe where you live and cycle.
In neighborhoods with a lot of human activity (people walking, riding) and along the coast with the view of the ocean constantly at my side.

What inspires you to keep bicycling?
Every day I ride, I feel indescribably happy. The experiences I have on the saddle allow me to be truly in touch on a very visceral level with the city around me. It is a sort of attachment that I cannot shed. And one that I don’t want to.

In your experience, does the general bicycling world—shops, outreach, group rides, etc.—feel welcoming for you as a woman?
No. I found one bike shop that did, and then they up and moved to Portland (Velo Cult). Intentionally or unintentionally, I always feel stupid when I walk into bikes shops. And I don’t know a whole lot but the condescending attitude seriously ticks me off. So I revert back to how I’ve always done things: watching youtube videos and buying my supplies online.

A family ride

What is your take on the “gender gap” in cycling, including media attention on how to get more women to bicycle?
I believe that the infrastructure issue is huge as it has been highlighted often. But women are constantly put down by not just the media (who tend to take their cues from leaders in the movement), but by men in general and that can be very demoralizing. I experience that on a near daily basis and since I’m fairly thick skinned I don’t notice it unless I take the time to really analyze it. I guess I’m a bit dead on the inside to really take stock of it. I think bike blogs written by strong women (like yourself and Trish) really serve to inspire. You look normal, and many women can relate to you and your interests. Between where we are now, and before we turn the U.S. into The Netherlands or Denmark, we’ve got to support one another.  I think I should write about this in more detail. [ed: in between submitting this post and us posting it, she has! Check it out.]

Although you seem to enjoy life in San Diego, you often express frustration with its dominant car-culture and poor infrastructure. If you could magically change one thing to improve bicycling in your city, what would it be?
Have a car-free day once a month. Have people ride, walk or transit everywhere. My frustration stems from the lack of empathy from the drivers. If everyone knew how annoying it is to get buzzed or honked at, I think people would be more considerate. [ed: WORD.]

Standard Tap: one of Beany’s favorite watering holes

Any advice for people, especially women, who want to start cycling?
It is scary, intimidating and annoying. Especially at first. My motivation is financial—I hate spending money. But the after effects have been tremendous. Riding gives such a wonderful feeling of independence—you can go anywhere you want to, on your own power. That is such a powerful feeling. Being outside on a bike—I feel so powerful, so happy, so inspired (I get some of my best ideas when I’m out on long rides). I’m very shy, so I tend to do things alone. So if you’re like me, I’d urge you to just try it out. Give riding a shot in a safe, protective environment and see how you feel. Don’t do something you’re uncomfortable doing. If you have a friend or a partner you trust—try riding with them. Ride with someone who is patient with you and your limitations. Be stubborn, and keep trying. If you have concerns about your body or your lack of fitness, try a little bit at a time. Although I ride every day, my body is not a svelte, lean, muscular machine. Like many women, I have my own body image issues, but I ignore them because the joy I derive from riding trumps all the negative thoughts in my head.

Final words?
I dream of a day when the number of people riding are split 50/50 between men and women. I want to be lost in the crowd of women.

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Thanks to Beany! Everyone should check out Brown Girl in the Lane for more San Diego cycling stories.

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Roll Model: Jools of Lady Velo

As part of the new LGRAB, every Tuesday we will profile an inspiring everyday cyclist—a weekly series called “Roll Models.”

This week’s Roll Model is Jools, aka “LadyVelo,” who blogs about her adventures on two wheels in East London at Vélo-City-Girl. Jools sets the bar pretty high when it comes to cycling in style—and she’s only been at it two years! Read on for a glimpse of the London cycling life.

Jools and her Pashley!

Describe your bicycling style in three words.
Stylish, leisurely, fun!

How long have you been riding a bike?
I’ve been riding my Pashley for just over two years (two years and two months to be exact!)

Describe where you live and cycle.
I live in Newham in East London, which is now famous for hosting the 2012 Olympic Games! As I cycle to work (also in East London) I do ride around the area a lot. Improvements are being made around here for cyclists, but there is still a lot of work to be done on the cycling infrastructure around here. When I’m out with The Boy on our bikes, we often cycle across London for our Coffee & Cake Saturday rides, which is ace! Getting around London by bike is the best way to really see and appreciate the City!

How does bicycling fit into and/or shape your life?
Bicycling has had a huge effect on my life: It’s been a fantastic way to meet new and likeminded people who enjoy the freedom of cycling… and who also enjoy mixing fashion with two wheels! My levels of fitness have also improved since getting my Pashley and starting to ride again… it’s been amazing.

In your experience, does the general bicycling world—shops, outreach, group rides, etc.—feel welcoming for you as a woman?
In my honest opinion, I find that the smaller / independent bike shops are always more welcoming to women riders. Some of the larger chain bicycle shops seem to be heavily geared towards men, which is a pity as there is a huge female cycling demographic out there. When it comes to group rides, women are being catered for with rides organised by the likes of Breeze Network, who are reaching out to female cyclists wanting to get back on the saddle—encouragement is key.

What is your take on the “gender gap” in cycling, including media attention on how to get more women to bicycle?
I really hope to see the day when there isn’t a “Gander Gap” in cycling when it comes to media attention / getting more women cycling….

If you could magically change one thing to improve bicycling in your city, what would it be?
The current CS Cycle Highways we have. I’d make them wider and adopt a similar style to those in Berlin

Do you feel optimistic about the future of bicycling?
I do feel optimistic about the future of cycling in London. Although it may feel like a tough battle at the moment, so many people / organisations / bloggers and such are campaigning for improvements here . . . voices will be heard and changes will be made.

Any advice for people, especially women, who want to start cycling?
Go for it! Do some research and look into getting a bike suited to your needs, and go at your own pace. Between me taking up cycling again in March 2010, there was a 10-year gap—it’s NEVER too late to start riding! It’s also very likely that there will be women-only cycle groups in your area—check them out and go on group rides or rides with friends to build up your confidence if needed…

Final words?
Be safe, be happy & enjoy being on your bike! x

 


 

Thanks for sharing your story, Jools! For more, visit her at Vélo-City-Girl or on FB or twitter.

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Roll Model: Karen of She Rides a Bike

As part of the new LGRAB, every Tuesday we will profile an inspiring everyday cyclist – a weekly series called “Roll Models.”

This week’s Roll Model is Karen from She Rides a Bike.  In 2008, Karen began bicycling for transportation in Flagstaff, Arizona and now blogs about her move toward a simpler and more satisfying lifestyle.

Describe your bicycling style in three words. In 3 words, my bicycling style would be responsible, assertive and well-organized. I wish I could say stylish but it’s more of an aspiration. [ed: way stylish!]

How long have you been riding a bike? I’ve been a committed transportation cyclist for 4 years.

How does bicycling fit into and shape your life? I’ve worked bicycling into most aspects of my life. If I can’t get someplace on my bike (with the exception of necessary air travel) I start questioning whether or not it’s even someplace I need to go. I still use a car from time to time but I’m more deliberate about when, where and why. I think bicycling has inspired me to reassess my relationship with “stuff” and motivated me to pursue simpler living that places value on experiences over possessions. I still like nice things but prefer quality over quantity.

What inspires you to keep bicycling? I’m inspired to keep bicycling by the way I feel (and sometimes don’t feel) when I’m pedaling. I love the feeling of strength, liberation, and openness that I experience moving in space. Bicycling is something I can do so why would I stop? Why give up my power? I’m also inspired by the other women cycling bloggers that I follow and their choice to also do something that is still a bit outside the mainstream.

As women, we are often rewarded for accommodating the expectations of the larger culture regardless of whether or not doing so is in our best interests. I love seeing women (and men for that matter) challenging expectations that serve no other purpose than to perpetuate a not always helpful status quo.

In your experience, does the general bicycling world – shops, outreach, group rides, etc. – feel welcoming for you as a woman? I think that I’ve been pretty lucky that the LBS in Flagstaff are super helpful and supportive of women cyclists regardless of what kind of cycling they do. A few of them sponsor clinics on bike maintenance and offer group rides. Flagstaff has a great urban trail system and many bike lanes so I can get around almost anywhere by bike. Flagstaff Bicycling Organization does a whole week of Bike to Work Week activities, as well as trail repair days and safety clinics. Women cyclists are viewed as important. The downtown bars and restaurants have also welcomed Tweed Rides since they bring people downtown who will spend money without taking up parking.

What is your take on the “gender gap” in cycling, including media attention on how to get more women to bicycle? I don’t see that big a gender gap in Flagstaff. It’s an outdoorsy community so women are doing all sorts of activities once considered daring. If there is a gap it might be more between moms and not-moms. I’m not a mom so I have considerable time and freedom that moms don’t necessarily have since I don’t have to worry about balancing a work schedule and a child schedule. Moms might have more safety concerns than I have. Flagstaff is bike friendly but some of its residents and visitors view the road as meant for cars and trucks only. Few cities enjoy the kind of bike culture as Portland.

I see an ongoing debate in the media about the cycle chic movement that strikes me as rather odd. There’s nothing prurient, in my opinion, about the cycle chic movement. I like to look nice at all times, including when I’m on my bike. As a new cyclist I appreciated cycle chic blogs that showed me how it was done. I’m 49 and have no desire to be confused as a bike-riding Hooters girl, and I don’t think cycle chic promotes that anyway. I just want to dress to please myself. If I had to wear gender neutral, asexual bike apparel or lycra, I wouldn’t have given bike commuting a shot.

If you could magically change one thing to improve bicycling in your city, what would it be? I think bicycling is still viewed by the movers and shakers as a recreational activity not as a serious transportation option. The town motto seems to be “Poverty with a view.” People joke about it but the high cost of car ownership is not funny. We sold one car and started bike commuting to help economize and it’s made a big difference in making ends meet and being able to save for retirement. Flag is small enough for bike commuting to be a very workable option for most residents but some still view investments in bike paths and other bike infrastructure as frivilous. Luckily, the bike community is pretty vocal.

Do you feel optimistic about the future of bicycling? I’m not by nature an optimist but I think the cycle chic movement has mainstreamed transportation cycling just a little bit. Framing bikes as sexy and fashionable might be the honey that makes the bitter medicine of changing how we get around go down a little easier. Ten years ago nobody could have told me I would be biking to work or the doctor or my hair stylist! It was a decision I made out of necessity. Nationally, times are changing. I think the days of mega houses and cars for every member of the household are coming an end. And that’s not such a bad thing.

Any advice for people, especially women, who want to start cycling? Give yourself permission to start slow and learn. Being a newbie at anything requires a learning curve and a period of clumsiness. With time, it all becomes second nature. Visit plenty of bikes shops, ride lots of bikes, and check out all the biking blogs out there because they are packed with experiences, ideas, images and real people who can give you lots of wisdom. Whatever your barrier to bike riding, someone has come up with a way to overcome it.

Final words? I just appreciate being asked to particiapate in this post. I think most bloggers do so because they have something in their lives that they want to share. I’m always amazed when I meet someone who tells me I helped motivate them to try bike commuting but if I hadn’t stumbled upon LGRAB and other lady-biker oriented blogs, I wouldn’t have had the courage to get started myself.

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Thanks so much to Karen for sharing her story and insight with us!  So many good points!

Visit Karen at She Rides a Bike and follow her on Twitter.

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Pedaling in a new direction

We are excited to announce an evolution of Let’s Go Ride a Bike! Since December 2008, we have been bringing you personal stories of our growth as transportation cyclists. This will not change—we will continue to share our everyday adventures with you. But now in addition to our traditional blog stories, we will increase our rate of posting and expand the range of our editorial content to present a broader view of the cycling world.

Why? 

After 3.5 years of sharing our personal stories, the time has come to expand beyond the traditional blog format. As the rate of transportation cycling continues to rise, we hope to be a resource and support system for bicyclists, new and experienced alike, with a focus on women (although men are definitely welcome and included!). We remain committed to demonstrating how life on two wheels can be simple, stylish, and fun. This new direction has energized us, and we hope it will energize you, too!

What?

  • Daily updates, sometimes two or more per day
  • Varied content
  • Regular series
  • How-to’s and practical information
  • Longer articles focusing on advocacy issues
  • Fun fashion and vintage inspiration
  • Interviews with movers and shakers in the bike world
  • Profiles of everyday cyclists and “Roll Models”
  • Videos and podcasts
  • Links to other interesting articles in the blog world
  • Dynamic magazine-style layout allows us to present more content in a compact space—while keeping individual posts and RSS feeds the same
  • Monthly newsletter (sign up here) featuring a sure-to-be-stunning monthly desktop calendar designed by Dottie

When? 

The new direction starts . . . now! If you are reading this through our RSS feed, we encourage you to click through to our actual site to see the redesign.

Your turn.

We’d love to know what you would to see more on LGRAB. Take our three-second survey.

Thank you for your continued interest in and support of Let’s Go Ride a Bike—and your patience during this transition. (We’re hoping you won’t need too much of it!) We remain dedicated to creating a community where all those who ride bikes for transportation will feel welcome, no matter the format. Your thoughts and comments are always appreciated.

Roll Models: Amy, the Crafty Commuter

Our latest “Roll Model” is Amy of Bobbin & Sprocket, who bicycle commutes in East Tennessee—when she’s not making cool bike accessories, that is. We asked Amy a few questions about her mixte obsession, the  reasons she loves working on bikes, the riding scene in East Tennessee and more.

Amy and Hedwig

Describe your bicycling style in three words.
Go. To. Work. Really, that’s pretty much it! I have two jobs. One about 1/2 mile from home in which I can wear whatever, and the other 5 miles from home that I need to dress grungy for. My bike has been adapted to fit these two lifestyles. It’s fairly upright, can hold my travel mug of tea in the morning, can carry what I need to take with me (and I usually have to haul a good deal to and from the barn in the evening), it’s comfortable and speedy and has worked out to be just a really good tool for getting around on. Now, once the Pashley arrives this may change a little. ;)

You’re a mixte girl–tell us why!
The first adult bike I had was my mom’s ’73 Fuji Dynamic 10, which is a mixte. It was the bike I learned how to shift a derailleur on, and to ride with drop bars. I just always liked the sporty yet practical feel of the mixte frame. I still have the Fuji, having been reunited with it over the summer. It’s in pieces right now, waiting for me to replace a bunch of parts.

How long have you been riding a bike?
Most of my life really. My dad was big into cycling when I was little, so he started me out young. By time I was 10ish I was getting around to all my friends houses (and some forbidden places mom didn’t know about!) by bike. By the time I was in high school though, we had moved way out into the country (My fault. Bought a horse and mom and dad din’t want to have to pay boarding.) We were half an hour car ride to the nearest shopping center and cycling ceased to be a practical way to get around. So from about 1991 to about 2 years ago I really didn’t do much cycling. Then I picked up a 1969 Hercules 3 speed on Craigslist and it all started coming back to me!

Where are your favorite places to ride?
I usually find favorites by accident. Just set out along some country road and see where it goes. Since I live in a mostly rural area, I love taking advantage of the scenic routes. I live about 4 miles from Boone Lake, and have a couple of favorite routes to get there. I also like hauling out to Kingsport to ride on the Greenbelt. I’m hoping to try the Virginia Creeper this summer too.

You have an etsy shop that sells handmade bike accessories — how did you get started with this?
I’ve always been a maker of things. Usually if I see something that I want, I figure out a way to make it instead of just buying it. Skirt guards are hard to come by in this country, crochet guards especially. So since I can crochet I sat down one night with some yarn and a hook and went to town. I decided put them up on Etsy and make them available to others. I’ve got two crochet guards now, available as ready to use items and as a pattern for the DIYrs as well. I’m also working on some stretchy netted guards and tooled leather accessories.

Tell us about cycling in Eastern Tennessee–what’s the culture like? Do you see a lot of other riders?
Cycling in Eastern Tennessee is pretty much for sport/ recreation. During the summer months I see some sport cyclists on the roads, and tend to see lots of MTBs on car racks. There are lots of bike trails around like the Virginia Creeper Trail and the Kingsport Greenbelt. We do have a couple of bike lanes on Johnson City, though they don’t really take you anywhere. Every once in a great while I will see someone riding for transport (in the 4 years that we have lived here I can count those times on one hand though). There may be a little bit more cycling around the ETSU campus. I have a co-worker who is a student there and she brings her MTB to campus in her car, then uses it to get around to her classes. She says that there are other students there that do the same. I’ve also seen a handful of bikes downtown. Now, in Kingsport I’ve seen just a little bit more transportation cycling. They have the Greenbelt there, which connects a good deal of the neighborhoods to businesses.

What inspires you to keep cycling?
I just love it! The fresh air, the exercise. Not needing to own two cars. Fitting into size 1 jeans again while still enjoying copious amounts of chocolate! Also, I love working on bikes. Finding old bikes and taking them apart, getting greasy, figuring them out and making them work again is a lot of fun for me. So if I’m going to keep a bunch of bikes around, I need to be riding to justify the herd!

Any advice for people, especially women, who want to start cycling?
I think that they first thing I would say to do is start small and work your way up. Buy a bike, any bike that feels comfortable and just ride it around in your neighborhood, apartment complex, a park or wherever you feel safe. I did this every evening for about 6 months before I felt confident enough to go back out on the streets. Plan a trip! The first time I decided to venture out by bicycle I actually went and drove it, paying attention to the terrain, condition of the roads, whether there was a good shoulder or not. I looked for safe places to stop if I needed to. For while I would plan a trip using Google maps street view to try to get an idea of the lay of the land if I was going down a road I had never been on before. Now I just get on and go, figuring it out along the way. Learn your local laws regarding cycling too. Reading up on TN’s laws actually made me feel more confident about getting out there. Don’t let rude drivers get you down, and have fun!

{Thanks Amy! You can find out more about Amy—and her bicycle crafts!—on Bobbin & Sprocket. Read about our past Roll Models here.}

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Roll Models: Molly Kleinman, Ann Arbor Activist

Today’s “Roll Model” is Molly Kleinman, a standout Summer Games participant (she completed some of the events on her honeymoon!) and a dedicated bike activist. Since returning to transportation cycling earlier this year, she’s already become part of an active bicycle collective, Common Cycle. Read on to learn more about this inspiring project, Ann Arbor’s burgeoning cycling scene and Rocky the Raleigh.

Molly and her bike, Rocky—Photo by Pieter Kleymeer

Describe your bicycling style in 3 words.
Not very fast.

What kind of bike do you ride, and why?
Most of the time I ride Rocky, a 1970 Raleigh Sport ladies bike. I found Rocky at a used bike shop in South Philadelphia in April, and we’ve been very much in love ever since. Three speeds, 40 pounds, original Brooks saddle. Rocky is my commuter/farmers market/around town bike, and he’s perfect for those things because I can sit upright and look around easily and wear skirts and cute shoes if I feel like it. I can’t go very fast on Rocky, but that’s actually a good thing. He helps me to stay calm, wait at red lights, stop for pedestrians, and keep my patience with jerky drivers. I have a wicker basket on the front and a rack on the back, and one day soon I’m going to get some shopper panniers so that I can do a full-sized grocery shop in addition to my regular trips to the farmers market.  I also have a newish Trek 1000 men’s road bike, which is for longer rides.

How long have you been riding? What made you start riding a bike?
I have been riding on and off since I learned to ride a bike at the ripe old age of 8. Growing up, my family used to go for rides along the rail trails and canal paths around eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Riding bikes this way—on easy trails, past trees and rivers—was just a family activity that we always did, and I never thought much about it. I still bring my bike every time I go visit my parents and we usually manage to fit in a ride or two when we’re together.

I didn’t start biking for transportation until I came to Ann Arbor for grad school a few years ago. It just made sense. The town isn’t very big or hilly so I could usually get anywhere I wanted within 10 or 15 minutes by bike. I rode the old purple Giant hybrid that I’d had since I was 12, which means I never worried about it getting stolen. Since then, I’ve experimented with different bikes for getting around town. At one point I had a really cool 1980 Miyata road bike, but it was too small for me and I also hated the feeling of a road bike when I was constantly stopping and starting and trying to keep an eye on traffic, so for awhile I gave up riding altogether. Since finding Rocky in April I have become completely rededicated to biking for transportation, and I’m in the market for a bike that will help me ride at least partway through the winter.

Rocky carries the perfect picnic

Since taking up cycling again, you have become an advocate—you’ve even helped start a bicycle collective! Tell us about Common Cycle.
Common Cycle is a nonprofit organization dedicated to make it easier for people in Ann Arbor to ride their bikes by providing access to tools, education, and workspace. We want to help people learn how to work on their bikes, and to have tools and space available for people to do maintenance and repairs. So far, we don’t have a permanent space and we borrow all our tools, but we’ve already helped a lot of people through our Mobile Repair Stand. We set up shop at the local Artisan’s Market in Kerrytown every Sunday, and provide repairs, tools, and as-needed instruction to anyone who brings us a bike in need of fixing. We haul all our tools and stands and tables on homemade bicycle trailers, and all of the mechanics who help with repairs and instruction are volunteers.

Since we started in April we have fixed over 400 bikes, and a few weeks ago we also taught our first workshop, which went really well. I learned all about how derailleurs work (they seem like magic but they are not!). Eventually we hope to offer regular workshops, including women-only workshops and a build-a-bike program for kids, as well as open shop hours so members can come in and use our tools and work on their bikes and just hang out with other cyclists. We aim to be welcoming to all kinds of bikes and all kinds of riders, and especially to make sure we’re a friendly place for women and kids to come and learn. Right now we are running our first fundraising campaign on Kickstarter in order to buy tools and trailers so we can make the Mobile Repair Stand a permanent fixture in the community, and we would be incredibly grateful if any LGRAB readers offered their support. If you pledge as little as $1 you’ll get a sticker, and the rewards get better the more you give.

Molly repacks a hub as part of the LGRAB Summer Games

What’s the Ann Arbor cycling scene like? Has it changed since you started riding, and if so, how?
There isn’t really one Ann Arbor cycling scene, I don’t think. There are the many college kids riding beat up old Schwinns and rusty mountain bikes. There are the speed freaks with their fancy road bikes who ride fast through the farmland around town. There is a subset of people riding fixies, and a smaller subset of those who play bike polo. There are also a lot of people who ride their bikes for transportation and errands without really thinking about it. Their bikes and gear aren’t the prettiest, but they are functional. And then I think there is a growing group who are into what I think of as LGRAB biking—they bike for transportation, but they like to do it on pretty bikes, and possibly also in pretty outfits. The city itself is slowly improving its cycling infrastructure, but Michigan is still very much a car-centric state (hello, Detroit), so the attitudes of many drivers still have a long way to go.

As far as change, I know that every year it seems like there are more people on the road biking just to get around. Last winter especially I was really impressed with how many people I saw out on their bikes.

What inspires you to keep cycling?
It’s just so much better than not cycling. On days I don’t ride, I am cranky.

Molly rides the Mont Royal greenway during her honeymoon on Montreal – click the pic for the full story

What do you like most about riding your bike?
I love getting exercise just by getting around town, I love how easy it is to stop and chat when I come across a friend or neighbor, and I love the feeling of being on my bike. I can’t think of a not-cheesy way to say it—riding my bike just feels good.

What do you like least about riding your bike?
Jerky drivers, of course.

Do you have a dream bike? And if so, what is it?
I am obsessed with cargo bikes lately, especially cargo trikes. Not any one in particular, though the Bakfiets are beautiful.

What advice would you give to those new to cycling, especially women?
Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. If anyone makes you feel dumb for trying to learn more about your bike, that person is a jerk. Also, ride whatever bike you feel best on. If anyone makes you feel bad about the kind of bike you ride, that person is also a jerk. You want a bike that you’re going to be excited to get onto every day, and it really doesn’t matter what kind of bike that is. It’s different for different people. For me, I thought it would be a badass road bike, but it’s actually an old steel behemoth with a ladies frame. If you have a bike that you really don’t feel comfortable on, don’t blame yourself, blame the bike. Try something else. When you love your bike and you feel comfortable on it, you’re going to want to ride.

{Great advice! Thanks, Molly, for taking the time to answer our questions. For more, check out  Common Cycle, the Kickstart fundraising campaign, or Molly’s collection of pictures and stories from the LGRAB Summer Games.}

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Roll Models: Melissa! Queen of the Suburbs

Today’s “Roll Model” is a familiar face here at LGRAB, our friend Melissa. This is a very special profile for me to post, not only because we’ve been friends since 3rd grade, but also because I feel a tiny bit responsible for putting this woman on the road. I gave her a vintage Bridgestone Kabuki (“Smurfette”) and talked endlessly about how much I love riding my bike. Then she started riding to work! She lives in the far suburbs (exurbs) of Chicago, so riding a bike around town is no easy feat.

Melissa and her bicycle

Describe your bicycling style in three words.

Defensive, chill, fun!

How long have you been riding your bike?

I’ve been commuting for about 2 years, off and on. But, you know, I had a bike when I was a kid. Aw, those days when we would just ride nowhere…

Why did you start riding your bike?

I first started when I was going to college. It was down the street and I rode my then-fiance’s bike there. I hadn’t ridden much since then, but I am a runner and I love pushing myself, so I thought that riding a bike would be good on my off-days. I bought a crappy Wal-Mart bike, but it started doing something weird and I didn’t know how to fix it. I freecycled it to someone, but it left me without a bike. Dot had an extra bike, so it was mine for my “19th” birthday.

I used to have this horrible commute on the highway. It was so boring and restricting (especially in the spring and fall) but we moved closer to my work, so the commute wasn’t as bad. I decided to start bike commuting because I wanted to be outside more, especially after reading one of Dot or Trisha’s blog posts – it looked so nice to start your day outside!

Melissa riding in a skirt

How does the bicycle fit into your life?

I love Smurfette. I love her because she is unique and I am unique. I love standing out from the crowd and Smurfette does that for me. In my area, there are mostly mass produced bikes or Lance Armstrong wanna-be bikes. Also, I like that Smurfette isn’t too complicated. I know some bikes have complicated gears or something but Smurfette is simple!

How long is your commute and what is the route like?

My commute is about 6 miles, a good mix of trail and street. I start on the trail, which is good because I can wake up slowly. Then I get on the street. There is a tricky part Where the Sidewalk Ends, with no shoulder and a curve, so it makes it hard for the cars to see me. That is the part that I repeat my little mantra, “I have a right to be here.” On some parts of the route, I am too scared to ride in the street, so I ride on the opposite side of the cars on the empty sidewalk.

How do you manage the clothing situation?

I sweat a lot, so I wear shorts or skorts and a t-shirt for my commute and change into my work clothes. I usually pack what I’m going to wear the next day and store it in my back basket. It’s tricky to pack the night before because I am moody, so I don’t always love an outfit I picked out the night before. Or sometimes the outfit didn’t look as good as I thought it did 11pm the night before. To smell fresh throughout the day, I have a whole bag of toiletries to help!

On the trail

What are people’s (friends, family, co-workers) reactions to you riding your bike?

Well, at first my fiance was against it because he thinks it’s dangerous. I don’t think it helps that I am a klutz in general: I fell down on my first commute this year. But he is starting to come around. He bought a bike and rides with me more. The other day, he proclaimed that he wants to try to ride to places more. I am definitely testing that!

My family is cool with it, too. They know I’m crazy and see this as another crazy endeavor. Funny story, when I was visiting my dad in Colorado, he mentioned that a lot people are all starting to ride their bikes now. He is a big Ford truck man, so I knew he wasn’t saying it in support. But I just said, “Join the revolution, Dad.” An awkward silence followed.

When my coworkers found out that I ride to work, they were really surprised. They think I’m crazy and that’s okay. During Ride Your Bike to Work Week, I sent an email out about it. I actually got a response from someone and we’re going to meet up on our commute soon!

You started a Facebook page to advocate for more bike lanes in your town, Aurora. What are the riding conditions like there and do you think it will improve?

Aurora riding conditions are not for commuting. We are lucky enough to have a bike trail, but that is really for recreation. It doesn’t go anywhere in town. There is one bike lane that lasts about ½ a mile. I still can’t figure out what the purpose of it is. It doesn’t go anywhere and it starts and stops randomly.

I am fairly confident that it will improve. I was interviewed by our local paper and the woman said that the mayor wants to add bike lanes but finds it hard to get support. I am thinking about planning a bike ride for some of us to ride in the streets. Maybe if we annoy the drivers enough, they will want a lane for us.

Aurora Commute Scenery

What do you like best about riding your bike?

There is so much to like, I can’t pick one favorite! I like the physical exertion, I like that I am lessening my global footprint, I like the wind in my hair on a hot day, I like seeing deer on my commute, I like high fiving the trees, whistling while I ride…

What do you like least about riding your bike?

I hate that it’s so dependent on the weather because the weather is so weird here. I also don’t like the lack of support from drivers. They can be such buggers! Lastly, I don’t like that the infrastructure of my town makes it difficult to ride into town.

Describe your dream bicycle outfit and destination.

I like to wear longer dresses that don’t fly up in the wind. I think it’d be cool to ride in New York City. I’d probably get in an accident watching all the other cyclists!

What advice would you give someone new to bicycling, especially women?

You just have to get out there and do it. You’ll figure out what works for you. Also, plan plan plan. You have to plan how you’re going because it sucks getting lost on your bike.

Have fun with it. You aren’t in a race, so don’t hesitate to stop and smell the flowers. For women especially, don’t flip off anyone that honks at you. You don’t know why they’re honking or who they are.

Also, learn how to work on your bike.

Smurfette - Melissa's loyal Bridgestone Kabuki

How did you get so awesome?

This is a silly question, Dottie! But I shall amuse you.

When a strict man and free-spirited woman love each other, they make a strictly free spirited baby. Haha!

I just try my best to be who I am. I have really great friends and family that amuse my whims. They are all really supportive of me and I’m really lucky. I haven’t had a friend who puts down any of my silly attempts to do something different and that’s really great because if they did, they’d be out anyway! Mostly, my fiance is my biggest fan. He’s the one who holds me when I cry and claps when I dance. If it weren’t for him, I’d be a lazy, chain-smoking slob. (Love you, boo. Can’t wait to be your wife.)

Pop quiz: I was with you the only time before adulthood I fell off my bike. What were we doing at the time?

Riding our bikes! Hehe. Honestly, I don’t remember. I remember when you fell but I can’t recall what we were doing. I know that my first memory of when I first fell off my bike, I lost my big toenail. [Editor’s Note: we were selling Girl Scout cookies!]

Melissa and her bicycle

Thanks, Melissa! You’re an inspiration to all – living and riding with class, style, humor and fun. :)

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Roll Models: “Balloon Biker” Jami Krause

Portland gets a lot of attention as a hub for “bike fun,” but that city certainly does not corner the market.

Balloon Biker Jami

Chicago has its fair share of bike fun, thanks to people like our latest Roll Model, Balloon Biker Jami Krause. Read on to learn what inspires her to ride, her advice for new bicyclists and what’s up with the balloons.

How would you describe your bicycling style in three words?

Exuberant, adventurous, utilitarian

How does the bike fit in your daily life?

I use my bike for everything. I commute daily to my day job, go grocery shopping, visit friends, go on trips and socialize.

You have a part-time business, Balloon Biker. Tell us about this!

I do balloon twisting for all kinds of events. Birthday parties, festivals, store openings, restaurant patron appreciation…really anything. I also do deliveries of bouquets or special sculptures. With enough time, I can make anything out of balloons.

Naturally, I can make a balloon bicycle.

If it’s at all feasible to bike to the event, I will do so. I also sometimes do street performance and use my bike for transportation for that.

Given enough time I can make anything from balloons. My website has information on hiring me for events.

Often I’ll attach balloons to my helmet at group rides and it always makes people smile. This past weekend I helped out with the new Kidical Mass ride. It was great to see so many kids enjoying helmet décor.

Has Chicago’s bicycle culture changed since you’ve been around? If so, how?

I’ve only really been riding for 3 year, but things have changed a little bit. I think that The Chainlink is a great resource for finding rides and riding companions. I’ve met some really great people through that and have gone on some amazing rides. My perspective has also changed. I’m a lot more confident and have begun organizing my own rides and events.

Jami’s Sea Creature

What inspires you to keep cycling?

It just makes sense. Within the city it’s usually the best way to get around. I don’t have to worry about parking or about the train and it’s easy to stop and do errands.

I’ve also met some amazing people through biking. If I were to stop cycling it’s like a third of my social circle would be much harder to see.

It’s great to have pedal powered adventures. I’ve gone on several bike camping trips and I love that. I’d really like to do a long distance tour, supporting myself by making balloons along the way.

Jami on her Halloween bike

What advice would you give others, especially women, who are interested in or new to cycling?

Just try it out. Other than a bike, a helmet and a lock, you really don’t need anything special. You don’t need to be in-shape or to have the latest and greatest of anything. I’m a plus-sized woman and have had no problems. If I can do it, really anyone can.

You can start with a visit to the store, or to a friends or to the park. It’s very easy.

As for fashion…it’s really about your own comfort levels. I wear what I’m comfortable in. You can dress nice if that’s what you like to do…or you can wear normal jeans, or office clothes or yoga pants. Heck you can even wear spandex if that’s really what you want to do.

I’d really recommend trying out some group rides. Join The Chainlink and see what is coming up. Think of the rides as a party…sometimes you need to approach people and strike up a conversation. Just like at a party, not everyone is going to be friendly or interesting. This was something that I struggled with at first, but now I see the same people over and over again and really find it a welcoming community.

Thanks so much, Jami!

Jami and I started talking at a stop light on our way to work a few months ago. From there we moved on to email, which resulted in this profile. Isn’t it so much fun to meet people while riding? :)

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Roll Models: Joanna Goddard, Biking Mama-to-Be

Our latest Roll Model is Joanna Goddard, Manhattan blogger extraordinaire. Not only does she maintain her own personal site, Cup of Jo, she also blogs (and writes) for Glamour magazine. Joanna and her husband Alex are expecting their first child–a boy–any day now, and she has continued riding her vintage 3-speed throughout her pregnancy. Read on to learn what plans she has for cycling after baby and what the best thing is about riding a bike.

Joanna on her bike, 33.5 weeks pregnant

Tell us about your cycling history — when did you start? What do you ride? What drew you to cycling?

My family has always been really into bikes. My dad, sister and I biked all the time, and we always took bikes on vacations. I had a blue bike with a banana seat. When I moved to New York City nine years ago, I got a bike, and I LOVE riding here! It makes the big city feel much smaller, and it’s great to feel the wind in my face. So refreshing and invigorating. (Read a story Joanna wrote about her first bike here.)

As a blogger who mostly works from home (I assume), how does cycling fit into your lifestyle?

Yes, I work from home. I’m actually claustrophobic so instead of taking the subway, I ride everywhere, pretty much year round (except for those insanely cold days). I ride to appointments, dinners, parties, errands, etc. (I recently rode to a big meeting in a pencil dress and super high heels, which was a bit of a feat!) My husband and I also take evening rides by the water, and we often take long weekend rides from our West Village apartment up to the lighthouse at the George Washington Bridge. It’s funny because in New York, you see everything on the bike path–teenagers on unicycles, dudes on Penny Farthings, we even recently saw a group of nuns rollerblading in their full habits!

You’ve kept riding throughout your pregnancy. What reactions have you gotten from family/friends/strangers? Have you made plans for riding after baby?

My trusty bike has saved my life during my pregnancy! Walking (i.e., waddling) has been uncomfortable during my seventh and eighth months, but biking feels amazing, since I can sit up straight and feel free and strong. Strangers are incredibly sweet, actually. Bike messengers and guys on the street will often yell out, “Hey, mama!” or “Congratulations!” as I ride by, or they’ll tell other bikers, “Be careful, she’s pregnant!” It’s really sweet — it’s like the pregnancy version of catcalling. :) After the baby arrives, we can take him on the bike with us once he’s a year old and strong enough to sit up in the bike seat. I’m excited to take him on his first ride. We already bought a bike seat in anticipation. :)

What tips would you give other moms-to-be about cycling while pregnant?

Do it! Ask your doctor first, of course, but mine encourages it. Biking feels easier than walking when pregnant, I think, and it’s wonderful, gentle, low-impact exercise. Just remember to wear a helmet, of course, and ride carefully.

How does your style conflict with or contribute to your cycling? Do you have any guidelines you apply to yourself when dressing to go somewhere on your bike?

I pretty much dress like a ten-year-old boy (jeans, sneakers and T-shirts), so my style fits pretty well with biking. But if I’m going to dinner in a dress or skirt, that works, too. The only big fashion guideline: Wear a helmet! I love this one from Bern, and I put reflective tape on it.

Joanna’s Bern “Watts” helmet

What’s the best thing about riding a bike?

Those magical moments that you can’t plan, like right after a rain storm when the sun comes out and you’re biking by the water, and the air is perfect and beautiful and the water is sparkling and you’re just flying along.

Thanks, Joanna! For more of Joanna’s beautiful pictures and inspiring posts, visit A Cup of Jo.

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Roll Models: Lalipourie’s Bicycle Style

I’d like to introduce our newest roll model, Laurie Harris. She studied at cycling mecca UC-Davis, where she earned a degree in design with an emphasis on textiles. Very cool! She now has her own small brand of eco-friendly jewelry, Lalipouri Designs, and blogs about her inspirations, including lots of bicycle beauty. Read on to hear how she first learned to ride a bike in college, the freedom provided by Davis’ cycling infrastructure and the ways bicycling can influence fashion design.

Tell us about your history with cycling. When and why did you start, and how do you use cycling now in your life?

At age 5 my parents got me a two wheeler to graduate from my tricycle. My new bike was cute and it was pink with tassels! I was going to be like all the bigger girls in my neighborhood. So my dad took me to the local university parking lot to have my first try! I was rearing to go! I was going great but for safety (of course) I screamed “Papa! Don’t let go!” Of course he did because I was riding just fine, but I freaked out and ran into a bush. I was traumatized! I cried, I screamed and swore I would NEVER ride a bicycle again.

Continue reading

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Roll Models: Catherine and Her E-Bike

If you hang around here, you’re probably already familiar with the awesome Catherine of The Freckled Diaries. We asked her to share her bicycling story and tell us more about her cool bikes.

Brief introduction:

I’m Catherine, a librarian working on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.  I live in the Old Town section of Alexandria, Virginia–a small city just on the other side of the Potomac from DC.  I own two bikes–one regular and one electric and I’m in the final stages of going totally car-free and I’m excited about it!

Catherine with her Electra Amsterdam

A little about my bike history:

I was big into bike riding as a kid, particularly from ages 10-14, when I pretty much lived on my bike. I had what felt like free reign to the whole universe, but in retrospect, the outer limits of what was allowed was a mile and a half away. It didn’t matter though because my school, after school activities, most of my friends, the YMCA, the library, playgrounds, etc were in this 1.5 mile circle around my house so, for a pre-teen/young teen, that may as well be the whole world. My bike riding came to an abrupt stop at about age 14 when I started high school in a town 10 miles away and I outgrew my pink Schwinn. This being the mid-90s, it was replaced with a mountain bike. I hated that bike. I didn’t like the way I felt riding it, but because I didn’t know any better, I figured it was because I had outgrown bikes. In retrospect, it was the hunched over feeling, the perched too high feeling, the handle brakes (as opposed to coaster brakes which I still prefer) that I hated. I think I rode that thing twice.

A Reintroduction to bikes and the Electra Amsterdam:

Fast forward a double-digit number of years and I find myself living in Old Town. It’s pretty much the perfect city environment for bike riding: streets on a grid, not heavy or fast traffic, everything you need within 2 miles, extensive trail network all over Northern Virginia and DC to get elsewhere. I bought an Electra Amsterdam with the intention of riding it around town for errands, getting myself to the Metro station, etc. I thought maybe I’d take it out on the trail every now and again, but at the time I was heavy and not physically fit and “cyclists,” particularly those out on the trails, seemed like such athletic people that I couldn’t really imagine doing much more than scooting around town.

I quickly learned that I need a better imagination.

The bike commute:

When my bike arrived in March, I immediately fell back in love with the freeing feeling of cycling, and found myself inventing errands to do so I could spend more time on the bike. After a few weeks, I took to the trail to see how far I could make it, and after doing that a few times (by mid April) I realized that I was 3/4 of the way to work and that I really could make a go of bike commuting. After dealing with a broken foot (minor setback), I started bike commuting twice a week in early June.

The commute is about 10 miles each way, and is largely flat but does have a few short but steep hills and one very seriously large and steep hill at the end. (Here’s a video I made of the commute: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvYI2PYivw8). It’s a great ride: a bit of Old Town streets, then a trail all the way up and across the Potomac, a sidewalk/trail to the Washington Monument, then a straight shot up the National Mall to Capitol Hill. It also takes me past two rugby fields, which I particularly like because there’s frequently a match in the spring and summer evenings. I love rugby and rugby players, so it’s kind of an ideal situation for me :).

Catherine with her e-bike

My e-bike decision:

A combination of the time factor, my fitness level and various logistic concerns made a daily commute not really workable for me. I thought about it more and more and realized that if I got an electric bike, I could bike commute every day and completely replace my car with the combination of the bikes, Metro and Zipcar. By early August, I had my e-bike (an Ecobike Elegance) and began bike commuting every day–most days with the e-bike and some with the Amsterdam. I still consider the Amsterdam my main bike; it’s all I use for everything but the longest of rides, and I frequently take it on Metro to get to/from farther-flung friends’ houses. The e-bike is more the utilitarian commuting beast.  Either way, I haven’t driven my car since September and have its sale in the works.  All in all, the sale of the car will cover the cost of both bikes, and between insurance, gas and maintenance (plus the ability to rent out my parking space), I’ll be saving/earning almost $5000/year (the parking space is worth a pretty penny ’round these parts).

More about the electric bike:

About e-bikes….they introduce a level of complexity into the situation but I’m really a proponent of them. Mine works in two ways–one by “turn the handle, bike goes” (the throttle option) and by pedal assist option–you pedal and the bike “senses” the effort you’re putting in and matches it. Most of the time, I use pedal assist because that’s what comes naturally to me and it doesn’t drain the battery nearly as much. I use the throttle mainly to help starting from a red light (particularly if I’ve forgotten to change gears before stopping!), or every now and again for a little “daredevil” boost of speed.  Most e-bikes work in a variety of different ways (some allow the cyclist to select the percentage of assistance for pedal assist, others are throttle only, some regenerate the battery when coasting/breaking). I know that they’re a little “controversial”, mainly because of the perceived “laziness” factor, but I think that this quote from a recent New York Times article about e-bikes in the US addresses that nicely (and coincidentally comes from my brand):

“Four years ago, we encountered many people saying, ‘Oh wow, we are so lazy, we need motors on our bikes’ ” said Scott Shaw, president of EcoBike USA, an e-bike maker in Southern California. “Now people are understanding and saying, this is more a utilitarian vehicle for commuting and getting outside on two wheels rather than four.”

I think it’s really important to recognize that not everyone is willing or able (physically, or time-wise) to commute, or otherwise travel daily by regular bike. While e-bikes are not as simple or “green” as regular bikes, and don’t provide the same level of exercise, they are far simpler, more sustainable and provide far more exercise than cars and public transportation. I think they’re a great option for that large segment of people who “would cycle to work but….”. I think that the more we embrace (or at least not dismiss) e-bikes, the more we’ll see bikes being thought of and used as transportation rather than “just” recreation.

So that’s it! If anyone’s ever in the DC area and wants some tips on where to go, what to do (or even a personal tour of the Capitol– a little staff perk), drop me a line!

Thanks so much for your inspiring story, Catherine! Visit Catherine at The Freckled Diaries.

Her story contains a common thread that also runs through my and Trisha’s stories: that of abandoning the bicycle in early teenage years, only to rediscover as adults the fun of riding a bike. We are curious to hear who shares this experience. Or has anyone ridden bikes without pause from childhood up through adulthood? If so, what kept you from falling into the societal trap of trading a bike for a license? On the other end of the spectrum, has anyone picked up a bicycle for the first time in adulthood, having never ridden as a kid?

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