Quote About the State of Bikes in Portland

“In his February keynote speech for Oregon Business‘ ‘100 Best Companies to Work for in Oregon’ awards dinner, Puppet Labs CEO Luke Kanies relayed a telling anecdote about the intersection between bikes and business. During their first staff meeting, new hires at this fast-growing Pearl District software firm are asked to reveal something interesting about themselves. But so many people want to talk about bikes (along with coffee and beer) that such interests are ‘no longer considered interesting,’ Kanies said.”
-From “Business Cycles,” Oregon Business, April 2014.

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April 9, 2014 · 8:00 pm

Bicycles and Tiny Houses

Honoring My Compass recently recounted a bike trip taken to visit a friend in rural Washington that lives in a tiny house with her mother. “Bike Touring, Tiny Houses, and Slug Sex” was a fun read, particularly since at the time the reader was experiencing a very stormy weekend and was concerned part of her house may not actually make it through.

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October 5, 2013 · 4:00 pm

Reader Survey: Why Do You Read Bikish?

Bikish is seeking feedback from its readers (hello, spambots)!

Is our content on the right track? Have we been thought provoking, interesting, and relevant? What could we be doing better? Take our one-question poll and use the comments to express any other feedback you have for the site.

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Mansplaining Bicycle Tires

Is there a female cyclist alive who doesn’t have a cocktail party’s worth of stories about when they’ve been mansplained to?

According to one source, mansplaining is “that thing where men explain things to women without acknowledging their intelligence, knowledge, or familiarity with subject matter. It’s paired with a ‘slimy certainty’ (thanks Urban Dictionary) that the mansplainer is right because he’s a man.” (Mansplaining 101: How to Discuss Politics and Feminism Without Acting Like a Jackass)

Now, I’ve been mansplained to plenty in the past (here’s my usual reaction)—I even wrote last summer in “Mechanical Woes” about some mansplaining I got from a mechanic at my (former) local bike shop.

A few nights ago I made my way to the one bike shop in town that stocks Nifty Swifties—the tires I have on my Sweetpea. Walking in the front door, I instantly felt out of place. The counter was full up with tall, very lean dudes. (If you have never met me: I am not tall, not lean, and my large breasts often get in the way when I’m doing yoga so I’m pretty sure I’m not a dude.) I stood a comfortable distance from the counter and waited patiently for a few minutes until the token woman offered to help.

As she was checking their stock of Nifty Swifties, the next clerk over had an exchange with a new (male) customer who had come in, expressing remorse that the customer needed to wait. Gosh, I thought. He didn’t care that I was waiting—patiently.

The female staff member found the tire I needed and started working a computer for an invoice. A thought occurred to me: since I had to go out of my way to make this purchase, I should make sure I was getting the exact same tire I had.

Asking an innocent question was my big mistake.

“Do Nifty Swifties just have one diameter?” I asked. I was almost certain they did, but better be safe than need to delay my repair, right?

The female staff member, who may have been new, was perplexed. As she started looking up the shop’s stock again, the customer on my right chimed in.

“The 650B is a very unusual size.” Mr. Buttinsky said, in a way that instantly felt condescending. “Almost no bikes have it.”

(Note to random customer: you’ve never been to Europe, have you? Or known any short women? Or checked out the new Jamis models? I know at least two people, not including myself, who have bikes with 650B wheels…)

Wishing I could shoot laser beams into his skull with my eyes, I asserted back, “I have a 650B.”

If I was better at comebacks in the moment, I might have added, “Natalie Ramsland drew two options for me when we were working on my bike together, and I very thoughtfully and deliberately chose the one with 650B wheels.” I know what tire I need, you jerk. UGH!

After I left the shop and headed for yoga class, I thought more about the interaction. Lately I’ve been looking for possible miscommunications in unsettling interactions rather than assuming the knee-jerk worst and letting it color my approach to my fellow humans. Another man I know really likes being helpful, and on many occasions has helped me when I’ve had a lack of technical knowledge. (He also does so without the slightest bit of condescension.) Could this stranger have merely been trying to help, and my own situational insecurity misinterpreted his intent?

It seems possible—until I think about other bike shops where I’ve never once felt out of place. The shops I’m thinking about are proactive about being female-friendly and have more than just one token female staff member. I have a personal connection to at least one person—reinforcing my thought that bike shop loyalty is built largely on relationships. The contacts I have and cherish, like my man friend, share knowledge without disdain. And recognize that I am no newbie to cycling.

Guys—just because someone doesn’t look like you doesn’t mean that they’re not a knowledgeable cyclist. Bicycling in high heels is fairly de rigueur in Portland these days. Seniors were racing the wind since before you were bornGary Fisher could probably school you on bikes, but doesn’t look the part. If you’re trying to be helpful, check your tone.

And for the love of Pete, when will more shops start stocking Nifty Swifties?


Filed under Bicycles, Oregon

What If? In Case of Emergency

Recently Atticus and I were involved in a crash.

It wasn’t a major crash or anything, but they’re always good at shaking up your life a bit anyhow.

What perfect timing then, that I should come across a blog article about crashes and pets, through the perspective of a fellow cyclist.

In Will You Be Coming Home to Your Dogs Tonight?, Susi shares the story of when she and her husband were in a bike crash that involved a short hospital stay. When they headed out on their ride they had no idea they wouldn’t be returning home to their dogs that night. In the piece, Susi shares her thoughts on how to plan for such an eventuality—and as most emergency preparedness goes, planning ahead is key. It’s not as hard as you may think!

The thought of not making it home to Atticus has crossed my mind now and again, but it’s usually gone in a flash. Reading Susi’s article got me thinking about easy steps I can take to ensure Atticus does not languish if the unspeakable occurs. (I will admit though, when you live next door to your family, half the work is already done.)

How have you prepared for this type of emergency? Got any more tips to share?


Filed under Bicycles

Wisconsin: Land of Cheese and Fonzie

How do you tell when an Oregonian is traveling?

You find a pile of paper, cans, and bottles in a hotel room with a note that says, “please recycle us!”

Amanda, one of my lovely ex-coworkers from Adventure Cycling Association, won a bike trip to Wisconsin at Interbike. She was chosen through a drawing done by Travel Wisconsin. She asked if I would like to be her +1, and I leapt at the opportunity. We scheduled our four day trip for Memorial Day weekend, and largely went about our daily lives until then. I worried about being able to pull off a long day on my bike, and made sure to do a long ride each weekend in the month leading up to our trip.

We spent one night in Milwaukie, then two nights in Madison, and then were whisked back to Milwaukee to catch our flight home. Over the four days we only got one significant ride in, around Lake Monona in Madison. Fate was not cooperating with our plans to bike beautiful Wisconsin.

There were still many great things we discovered in Wisconsin though! My personal favorites:


You don’t normally think of hotel restaurants as amazing places to eat, do you? That is because you haven’t visited Kil@wat, which is on the second floor of the Intercontinental Hotel in Milwaukee. Kil@wat’s staff welcomed us with open arms. Although it’s not on their website, they have a significant vegetarian menu. The butternut squash soup (of all things) was to die for. Our server was friendly and had a pleasant conversation with us—even offering us complimentary dessert at the end of our dinner. We also started getting a sense of Wisconsin’s game in the cheese department here.

• The Bronze Fonz

Right around the corner from our hotel we discovered a life-size (Henry Winkler is a short man) statue of Fonzie! It was right along Milwaukee’s Riverwalk, which houses other public art such as “Gertie Gets Her Ducks in a Row” by Benjamin Rothschild.

• Cheese

Tillamook Cheese is one of the original culinary prides of Oregon. Their medium cheddar has won international competitions, so I wasn’t planning to be too impressed by Wisconsin cheese. I was pleasantly surprised though. As a vegetarian in the midwest, cheese is about the only thing you can eat at many restaurants. And boy did I eat a lot of cheese. Cheese plates, grilled cheese sandwiches (minus the bacon, which seems to be an interesting regional requirement), mac and cheese, cheese popcorn…so much cheese. Fortunately it was all quite tasty.

Pretzel buns

Another pleasant surprise was my discovery of pretzel buns. At the Great Dane Brewpub in Madison I had the mac and cheese with a pretzel bun, which was rather flavorful. The next day at Essen Haus, my veggie burger came on a pretzel bun. This second bun lost that delicious yeasty pretzel taste compared to the Great Dane roll, but it was more like a hamburger bun. Dana and I have made pretzels before, and we’ll have to try pretzel buns sometime in the foreseeable future.

Manna Cafe and Bakery (and a special cameo!)

Remember Diana the cross-country bicycling veterinarian? She visited Portland last fall and we Brewcycled together but she lives in Madison now with her adorable Newfoundland Amelia. They hung out with us when we first arrived in Madison—Diana took us to Manna Cafe and Bakery, her favorite place to eat in town. I think it’s my favorite place too—knowing the meat-and-cheese landscape of the midwest, I was able to get a meal with serious veg here. Before leaving I picked up a pumpkin chocolate chip muffin and Earl Gray scone with lemon drizzle for later. Both were delightful, and I’m also going to see if I can reproduce that scone at home.

• The Wisconsin State Capitol building

Our second day in Madison wasn’t cooperating with us, but we still had some time to kill. Even though it was Memorial Day, the Wisconsin State Capitol building was open, so we went inside. It’s the third capitol building I’ve been to, after Oregon and Montana. Last year it was the site of much national attention when Governor Scott Walker had a showdown with the unionized public employees of the state. I found beauty in both the immense tile murals adorning the rotunda and in details such as the Ws that reminded elevator passengers which state they were in. Unlike other state capitols, Wisconsin’s rotunda sports an observation deck where visitors can circumnavigate the building and see out in all directions.

Bucky Badger

In Madison, busses kept passing by with a line drawing of a badger that looked straight out of the 1950s. Soon I found out this was Buckingham U. Badger (or “Bucky” as he’s known to his friends)—the official mascot of the University of Wisconsin at Madison. At one establishment across the street from the capitol building I found small bags of Bucky Badger Cheese Popcorn. A great gift for my loved ones at home!

That’s not quite everything, but those were definitely the highlights of this bike trip that featured more eating than biking. I also enjoyed the pet friendly hotel we were at in Madison, where just at the moment I was missing Atticus, a dog came around the corner and made fast friends with me. There was the Free Little Library we discovered—and I later learned Free Little Library started in Madison. We also got to check out Madison’s bikeshare program—which I’ll leave for another post.

As Amanda noted on our last day, Travel Wisconsin gave us just enough of a taste of the state to want to come back for a longer bike adventure!

See more photos from Wisconsin.

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How to Bike with Your Dog (Long Version)

Would you ever leave your child alone by herself when you went to work all day? No you wouldn’t, fair reader—I just know it. Yet it is commonplace for us to leave our animals by themselves for hours each day, without supervision. What if you have a particularly sharp, social, active animal as a housemate, as I do?  If you’re a cyclist, you’re in a double pickle—using your precious free time to go on a bike ride is likely to yield those eyes. Those sad, sad eyes that wonder why you’re leaving—again.

This has been my experience at least. My faithful sidekick Atticus loves going places and meeting new people, but biking with him has been impossible. When he was much younger (and more skittish) I tried acclimating him to a trailer, but one paw placed in the trailer made the thing wobble. He would have none of it.

In the time since, a new option has made serious inroads around Portland: the mighty cargo bike! Able to carry anything you can dream of, cargo bikes have gained enough traction in Portland that there are annual cargo bike competitions such as the Fiets of Parenthood and the Cargo Bike Disaster Trials.

I secured a cargo bike for the weekend from Splendid Cycles, owned by the kind hearted Barb and Joel Grover. Barb and I met when we worked together at the local bike advocacy organization—she was an extraordinary volunteer for a major fundraising event we held each year.

Friday: Getting Our Bearings

Friday evening I picked up the bike at Splendid Cycles. Our chariot for the weekend? A Danish Bullitt cargo bike, in a color called “Milk Plus.” It had a box with a non-slip bottom in the front for Atticus.

The Grovers’ experience is that dogs generally do great in a cargo bike. “There’s something about being in front,” Barb said—and it made sense. Atticus likes to be in front on our walks, so perhaps being in front on a more solid vehicle than a bicycle trailer would make sense for him too.

Barb wheeled the rental across busy Belmont to the much calmer SE 14th—a residential street. She explained the two errors newbies always seem to make: watching the front wheel and steering incorrectly. She said that almost everybody gets used to their Bullitts after riding about a block.

While I didn’t watch the front wheel when I took off, the steering still felt foreign. Riding the slight downhill on 14th helped, and by the time I reached a traffic circle and made my way back up to Belmont, I was confident enough to start making my way home.

The way home was slow. Normally that journey would take about 30-35 minutes on my usual bike, but I believe it took about 45 minutes on the Bullitt. It was a combination of still feeling a little foreign riding the bike and making my way up the hills along the route home. But the second I got home, I brought Atticus out to see how far we could get on the first introduction.

Turns out, getting Atticus in the bike wasn’t that tough. The last few years he’s been pretty good about getting into a bathtub if I point and sound assertive. Making sure the bike was on its center stand for more stability, I gave my bathtub command. The first time we had to help his back end into the bike, but after that everything was fine. I wrapped a leash around the head tube of the contraption and attached it to his harness, just to make sure he wouldn’t leap out.

We started with just a trip around the block, and the only time Atticus looked nervous was when he felt the stand flipping up and hitting the bottom of the cargo box (he got used to this over the weekend). One successful trip deserved another, and then another. Atticus only risked trouble once that evening, when he shifted his weight in the box as I took off from a stop, and we nearly tipped the bike. After that, he nestled in the box and rested his chin on the edge as we ended up biking around our neighborhood, and even over to the Woodstock library, as much as we could fit in before dark.

At sunset, it felt like a new day had dawned.

Saturday: Human Cargo

Atticus didn’t go for any rides on Saturday, but I did experiment that day with human cargo. When I offered the above photo of Atticus successfully meeting the cargo bike on Friday, Steven immediately replied, “when do I get a turn?” He came over Saturday and I had a new challenge.

That part went pretty well—we moved more slowly because Steven weighs more than Atticus’ 65 pounds, but the bike actually felt more stable/less likely to tip because of it. Again, we started with just a trip to the local park and back, but before we knew it we were headed to the Woodstock library again, around Brentwood Park a few times, and generally any old place I could go that didn’t require any hill climbing.

My legs were a little tired when I finally got off the bike, but I was properly prepared for Sunday.

Sunday: East Portland Sunday Parkways

If you’re not familiar with the concept, Sunday Parkways (or ciclavias, Sunday Streets, etc) is an event where certain streets are closed to cars for people to come out and play. The first Sunday Parkways of the year was held in East Portland—historically the least packed of the bunch, which I saw as a great opportunity.

Atticus isn’t fond of other dogs, which normally makes taking him to a crowded Portland event like this a bit unfair to him. He loves exploring new places and enjoys meeting strangers, but other dogs that get in his face and stay there are Canidae non gratae.

A possible solution? Riding around an event in a cargo bike!

Dressed in ship-piloting theme clothing (Union Jack helmet and Moby-Dick socks), I loaded Atticus into the Bullitt Sunday morning. Steven joined us, and we headed for the course, just over a mile east of my home.

But before we got to the event  Atticus randomly decided to jump out of his cargo box—mere feet from busy 82nd Avenue! It wasn’t too hard to keep him out of harm’s way, but it was a bit of a scare since we hadn’t even reached the event yet. He peed, and soon enough we hit the road again.

Once at Sunday Parkways, Atticus had a swell time. He was lying down for about half the seven-mile course, but then he sat upright and just let his ears and tongue float on the wind, face relaxed. He enjoyed getting to go for a ride, appreciated not being left behind, and delighted in the attention he was getting from passersby, whose children would point and shout, “look at that doggy!” A few gravelly voices noted how Atticus clearly had a great life, getting wheeled around on a cargo bike. We avoided stopping in the most crowded places so Atticus’ patience wouldn’t be tested. In hindsight, the cargo box probably offered him the protected feeling of a kennel, calming him even more. This was one happy dog.

Since my full attention was on Atticus and the bike on Sunday, I didn’t take any photos of us. Steven got a few of us riding the course—we’ll see how they turn out!

After the event, we went back home to briefly rest and compare notes with Steven before the bike needed returning. Soon I piloted the Bullitt back down to Splendid Cycles before the shop closed at 5pm.

And when I got home, I immediately started scouring Craigslist for used cargo bikes…


Does Atticus have an easy life? Decide for yourself: subscribe to The Daily Atticus to follow his adventures, in pictoral form.


Filed under Bicycles

How to Bike with Your Dog (Short Version)

Step 1: Get a cargo bike.

Step 2: Get a dog. (We recommend an Australian shepherd.)

Step 3: Combine steps 1 and 2.

(Not enough detail? Don’t worry, I’ll be posting the long version soon.)


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Feel the Burn: An Oregonian Explains a Yearly Rite of Passage

What do proper Portlanders do on the first sunny weekend of the year?

They get sunburned.

Here’s how it goes down. It’s a pleasant weekend morning. You decide to go for a bike ride. You’d like to leave by 10am, but it’s now 9:55am. Your brain says: “Hey, self! You should wear sunscreen! It’s sunny out there and you could get sunburn!” to which a different part of your brain responds, “We’re late! We should just go! It’s not that warm yet and there’ll be time for putting sunscreen on later!”

So you go.

And five hours later, when you’re within minutes of returning home, you’re stopped at a traffic light and notice your arms are feeling a teensy bit warm.

See, brain! We’re almost home and your skin is only now starting to feel a little pink!”

Your brain is very stupid. It never seems to remember that sunburn gets worse after you’re out of the sun.

This very series of conversations happened in my head this past Sunday. Two hours after returning home—approximately the time my arms started feeling radioactive—I went a-Googling and found this Scientific American blog post about how sunburn happens.

Humble readers, just take the 30 seconds to apply the sunscreen before you leave the house. Once I leave, I cannot be bothered to stop for such trifles. You’re smarter than that readers—don’t be like me.


On this particular day, I biked from my home in Clackamas County, to Kelley Point Park in North Portland—about 40 miles round trip, according to the calculations I did last summer. I made it to my destination in just over an hour and a half—not a bad pace for someone who hasn’t been riding regularly! (The photo above is of Sweetpea peeking out from the park onto the Columbia River, which separates Oregon from Washington. Kelley Point Park sits at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers.)

The ride was more preparation for my upcoming trip to Wisconsin—and the itinerary on that trip is starting to come together. Amanda and I will mostly be exploring Madison by bike, and it’s going to be great!

Plans for this weekend’s ride came together a little unexpectedly. The route shouldn’t be particularly challenging, but certain circumstances will make it a real adventure. If you want to spoil the surprise, click here. If it works out, I will see a long-time dream realized, and will have content for a nice juicy blog post afterward.

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Emerging from Winter and Preparing for Wisconsin

In my brain, winter is a time when I hole myself up at home drinking tea—maybe getting some reading done—all while trying my best to stay warm.

The problem is, winter is never actually like this. This winter, circumstances found me joining a gym so I could take a shower, getting back into yoga, doing my best to take care of the health issues of an aging dog, and much more. Circumstances were such that I couldn’t really bike to work and my weekends were pretty full up, so I barely biked at all. My daily exercise was an hour and a half of walking Atticus along with one or two yoga classes each week. It seemed like I was rarely—if ever—home. (Although in keeping with the aforementioned vision of winter, I still managed to drink gallons of tea per day.)

Then quite suddenly, it was spring. And some planned trips that seemed so far off were just around the corner.

Case in point: a bike trip to Wisconsin. My friend Amanda won a bike trip for two to Wisconsin at Interbike, and she asked if I wanted to be her +1. I jumped at the chance.

Now, I’m still not entirely sure this trip is actually going to happen. After all, we’re now a month out and the details we have are scarce (May 6th: this has been rectified. -Ed.). Two things have been keeping my nerves under control:

  • If the day arrives and I don’t have an airline ticket—nothing much I can do about that, is there?
  • In an emergency scenario, I know two people who could come to the rescue if need be. One lives in Wisconsin. The other lives in Illinois but goes kiting in Wisconsin regularly, and has vowed to rescue me if I need it. This is heartening.

To avoid a rescue scenario, I’ve started doing my best to get my body back into the swing of things. The last couple of weeks I’ve been riding in an effort to get prepared for my trip.

A Ride to the City of Ham

The first ride was pretty simple—a ride from my house to Gresham and back, with a food stop at the Gresham location of Nicholas’ Restaurant. Steven joined me. It was his first bike ride in a while too, so we were getting our sea legs together.

When we got to where Gresham should be, we discovered that it has been replaced by the City of Ham, as evidenced by an enormous gateway sign welcoming traffic from the Springwater Corridor. Steven had a busted tire by this time, so we ended up walking from the entrance to the City of Ham to a nearby bike shop. (Thank goodness it was Saturday and they were open, else we would have been riding the bus back!) We left his bike with the shop and went to eat. The City of Ham provided more than enough food for two vegetarians.

Kinda Epic Triangular Solo Ride

Clearing Sunday on my calendar, I vowed to start seriously preparing for this trip by doing a longer ride. Before leaving the house I had a vague idea that I’d like to head east almost to the City of Ham again, head north, head west, go downtown, and then back home—a lengthy loop. That didn’t quite happen, but leaving the ride open to flexibility ended up being a good decision.

It wasn’t until I was booking it east on the first trail that I realized I had forgotten to eat breakfast or bring any food with me. I ended up overshooting a few miles and going to Jazzy Bagels in the City of Ham. (Jazzy Bagels is a bit of a relic of the past, from when the town was known as a local jazz capital because the Mt. Hood Festival of Jazz was held there each year, and it was a major summer event.) Once I was done with breakfast I got back to business, heading back to my intended turnoff, then heading north until the Gresham-Fairview trail ended. I decided to keep heading east a few miles until I got to Edgefield in Troutdale, then turn back.

This is when I started entering new territory. In theory I could have gone back the way I came or headed a bit further north to catch another trail that paralleled a noisy highway. Instead, I used my Bike There! map (which needs replacing—turns out my copy is now six years old!) to navigate myself…to the Portland airport. I’ve biked to the airport one other time, but with a different approach. Approaching from the east was interesting, for sure—there were two times I needed to navigate across traffic feeding onto highway on-ramps. In an effort to stay in the shoulder, I ended up taking the exit to Cascade Station and had to shoulder my bike over a grassy island to correct my mistake and get to the frontage road that is part of PDX’s official bikeway.

In theory I was going to go inside PDX and get a soda or use the bathroom, but when I got to the terminal I didn’t feel like it. I stood there for a few minutes, breathing in secondhand smoke (the airport’s closest bike rack is right next to the designated smoking area) and then headed back west. I visited my nearby workplace then decided to time my journey home. Part of the reason I haven’t been commuting by bike is that I consider an hour each way my limit. This was a chance to test what I thought would be more than an hour ride.

The next hour was spent with me silently cursing ODOT planners from the 1970s. If you’ve never been on the I-205 bike path, you probably know there is much needless up and down on the trail. When your body is getting tired, these are the things you meditate on as you are puffing your way up some of the climbs that exist on the north part of the path—fortunately it gets a little better south of Gateway Transit Center.

The fourth and final hour of my bike ride ended with a stop at Cartlandia, just a mile from home. London Pasty Company, one of the carts in the pod, now sells a $1.50 ice cream cone with raspberry syrup on the top—a pleasant thing to remember as you’re passing by.

Subtracting ten minutes for the ice cream stop, turns out it took me an hour to bike home from my work building. This blows one of my excuses for not biking to work out of the water. My coworkers have been asking if I’ve started biking to work yet, and with the upcoming trip it seems like now would be the time to start. Unfortunately, it will mean leaving Atticus for 11 rather than 10 hours per day—frankly, time with him is a higher priority than biking, so I may not do any permanent changes just yet.

Thinking back on my busy winter, it seems like spring and summer are bound to be even more action-packed!

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Filed under Bicycles, Oregon