Category Archives: Oregon

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.

Leave a comment

April 9, 2014 · 8:00 pm

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?

3 Comments

Filed under Bicycles, Oregon

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bicycles, Oregon

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!

Leave a comment

Filed under Bicycles, Oregon

Three Reasons I Loved My Adventure Cycling Tour

ThreeReasonsILovedMyAdventureCyclingTourMy second guest blog post for Adventure Cycling Association went live a couple weeks ago. Three Reasons I Loved My Adventure Cycling Tour recalls my Oregon Coast bike trip last summer, encouraging other riders who may not have tried Adventure Cycling’s organized tours to give it a shot.

Over the last few months my time in the saddle has been nearly non-existent due to a new job and life obligations, but spring looks promising. In May I should be traveling to Wisconsin for a short bike respite with Amanda from Life Without Wheels, and hope it will provide some material for my third guest post for the organization.

Stay tuned!

2 Comments

Filed under Bicycles, Oregon

A Bikish Year (2012) in Photos

Over the past week, I’ve been realizing how much I have to be proud of this year. My friend who goes by Mudlips over at Peregrination inspired me to post a year in photos like she recently did. I thought it would be tough to fill up the year in photos on both this blog and Bookish without having holes—I was wrong. There were times I was doing more booking than biking, or more biking than booking, but I managed to get at least one photo per month this year of both.

JANUARY

I babysat Lily’s Xtracycle the first few months of the year. I only ended up riding it about four times, and I never had reason to haul anything, but at least it was in good hands while she was in Germany. I didn’t even remove the narrow saddle that made me wince every time I rode it. This photo is from an outing to Bar Carlo, my favorite restaurant that is relatively close to me.

FEBRUARY

Under the inky cover of night I assisted with installing a series of bike rack cozies at Bertie Lou’s Cafe in Sellwood. A knotty yarnbomber named Lefty O’Shea has created a number of similar installations across Portland, which aim to tie in with the adjacent business. For example, Bikeasaurus got a bike rack cozy that had a dinosaur spine, and the cutesy decor at Bertie Lou’s was honored with roses on top of this series.

MARCH

7267226688_b0ee191e17_o

I was mostly in the throes of working on my MPub project report titled Publishing to Inspire: The Role of Publications at Adventure Cycling Association. On this sunny day I managed to take the Xtracycle for a spin over to the Woodstock Library. I also discovered that I could wear my hair sticks if I used my Union Jack helmet, as shown. A good discovery!

APRIL

Work on my project report was coming to a close, and I got myself a bikish graduation present: I signed up for Adventure Cycling Association’s Introduction to Bike Touring course. In celebration, I took Sweetpea due south along the I-205 path until we got to the bridge at High Rocks. The bridge was still closed for some construction, but I had never traveled that far south on that deplorable multi-use path. It would not be the last time I would do so this year.

April was also the month I decided to forge ahead by myself in my biking activities.

MAY

In May I enjoyed my first solo bike overnight trip. Wrote about it for the Bike Overnights blog (My First Solo Bike Overnight: Champoeg State Park) which then got chosen by Mac as one of the Top Five Bike Overnights to be used whenever they want to market or promote the site. W00t!

It was also the first time I got to see the exhibits at the Champoeg visitor center—exhibits that I helped develop in 2004. Working on that project was how I met Marie Naughton, who has since become my mentor and one of my best friends.

JUNE

Emily and I biked to Metzler Park near Estacada for an overnight trip (The Adventures of Lycra Grrl: Traversing to Metzler with a Ninja).

JULY

7566108782_a4244fae88_o

In preparation for my bike trip I climbed Mt. Tabor, Mt. Scott, Rocky Butte, rode the 40 miles from my house to Kelly Point Park and back (on the way home, above), got some mechanical issues solved, and the last few days of July I was on my bike trip.

AUGUST

Bike trip (The Adventures of Lycra Grrl: Certified Excellence in Bicycle Touring)! Oh, but it was great. The people were interesting and nice, we had a good route, and I experienced parts of Oregon I’ve not been to for decades, if ever.

SEPTEMBER

Completed the pronunciation guide for this project. Greg had bandanas made earlier in the year, but when he knew Adventure Cycling was to start selling “Bikelingual” T-shirts, he asked for me to do a little more research and come up with a pronunciation guide that would ship with the shirt.

OCTOBER

Diana (Zippy Diana Finishes her Trip) visited Portland and we did the Brewcycle Tour (Brewcycle Portland and the Triumphant Return of Diana), during which we just happened to run into a pair of cyclists making their way from Seattle to Utah.

NOVEMBER

This month’s biking mostly took place in the rain. But this fall I hiked much more than I biked.

DECEMBER

First guest blog post for Adventure Cycling (Winter Tips from a Rain Expert)! This photo is one of the “DVD extras” I wanted to include in that blog post, but didn’t.

It looks like the next year will bring a couple more guest posts for Adventure Cycling Association, but beyond that, things look hazy. My housing situation is problematic, to put it mildly, and my time is increasingly crunched. Even if I can get out on my bike, I may not be able to document it as thoroughly as I’d like. Only time will tell.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bicycles, Oregon

Winter Tips from a Rain Expert

ACAGuestPost1My first guest blog post for Adventure Cycling Association went live on Friday. Winter Tips from a Rain Expert reveals most of what I’ve learned dealing with Portland rain over the years.

Riding in the rain was one of the more challenging obstacles I faced as a bike commuter, and I hope this article might help other people power through their resistance to the wet. If you like what you see, I hope you’ll share the article with others—I’d love to get lots of readers and feedback.

I’ll be doing a couple more guest posts for Adventure Cycling over the next several months. At the moment I’m brainstorming ideas for my next post. What would you like to see?

Leave a comment

Filed under Bicycles, Montana, Oregon

Lessons from a Trumpet Guy

(Photo by Mark Blevis on Flickr)

Meet Kirk Reeves.

I knew Kirk, like many did, as “the trumpet guy.” He used to sit on a traffic island on the west end of the Hawthorne Bridge on weekday afternoons and entertain passersby. Usually he played the trumpet, but often pulled out props like an expanding ball toy (at left). He wore distinctive hats and had a smile and a kind word for everybody.

If you are a cyclist and know anything about Portland, you probably know that the Hawthorne Bridge is Bikey Ground Zero. It’s the bridge where bike traffic can easily outnumber car traffic, where bike traffic jams are a very real threat, and where thousands of bikes streamed by “trumpet guy” every day.

And as such, many people who commuted by bike were very familiar with “trumpet guy.” Like me.

When I worked in Chinatown, I often used to cruise down Naito Parkway to bike home, rather than riding through crowded Waterfront Park. This meant that I needed to circle up to the Hawthorne Bridge in an unusual way. Instead of approaching via the bike lane behind him, I accessed the bridge by biking up a closed onramp, spitting me out on the crosswalk directly in front of “trumpet guy.” I rode this route for nearly two years.

If he wasn’t playing trumpet, Kirk often said hello and smiled at me as he waved his rubber chicken at traffic. Cars were often paying more attention to the oncoming traffic lane than the crosswalk, and Kirk’s presence made me feel like if anyone ever hit me, I’d have a witness to tell the world just how innocent I was.

Earlier this week, I read online that Kirk had died. The Portland Police were searching for any relatives he may have, and Portland started sharing memories of him. A few news outlets covered the story of his death.

It wasn’t until today, after the police had found a relative, that the real story emerged: Kirk was found near Bybee Lake in North Portland with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. This man whose smiles never ceased was hiding a lot of inner suffering, as it turns out.

Even before the suicide angle emerged, the story had picked up enough steam that Facebook fan pages started emerging for Kirk. Remembrances started pouring in: KGW found file footage of him working the bridge, The Oregonian ran a loving tribute, Portland Community Media shared a short documentary about him.

There are two lessons I take from Kirk’s sad story.

First: never underestimate the ripples you make in the world around you. Sure, Kirk auditioned for some big television shows and didn’t get selected, but people definitely noticed when he was absent from his post on the Hawthorne Bridge for more than a few days this past week. Those people have organized a candlelight vigil this weekend that even Portland’s Mayor, Sam Adams, says he will attend.

Second: Portland is known for, and often prides itself, on its “weird” citizens. It seems to me that a fair amount of this “weird” behavior may be a cry for attention, a happy face covering an inner pain. After all, Portland is pretty bleak in the winter, a never-ending sea of gray mist from October through May—that can get to even the most stout-hearted of us.

So, to anyone who has ever been deeply irritated by the attention-whoring of someone else, perhaps considering this possibility may help you be more compassionate toward them. And to anyone who has been that person, trying desperately to keep a smile on to just get through the day, know that you impact the world far more than you may think. And consider talking to someone about those worries! Reach out when you’re feeling the worst and you may soon find that the feelings aren’t quite as bad as they used to be.

5 Comments

Filed under Bicycles, Oregon

A Struggling Relationship with Rain Capes

Rain capes and I have had a long and tenuous relationship. Curiosity interested me for years, but I didn’t have the opportunity to try one out. Now I have. And I want to like, them—really, I do—but the reality of using one has not matched up so far with how they’ve been explained to me.

If you’re not familiar, a rain cape is supposed to work like a big tent that shields water from your body underneath. Practical applications: if you hate wearing a rain jacket and rain pants, or perhaps if you are too short, too tall, too big, or too curvy for the few decent selections out there on the market. Available sizing got you down? No problem, a rain cape is for you!

But if you live in the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest (like I do), beware.

In Montana last summer, I received a bright red rain cape from the Dutch company Fast Rider. It worked when I biked a few blocks in Missoula’s spring showers, but I knew the ultimate test of this rain cape’s abilities would be testing it during a Portland winter.

Since coming back home last fall I’ve worn this rain cape out on three occasions:
• Riding downtown to see a bike-related brown bag presentation and meet a professional contact in person for the first time. The rain was pouring. While my top half stayed sufficiently dry, my pants were sticking to my legs when I arrived at City Hall. They remained so for hours. Tres professionnel.

• Biking about an hour to my friend Chris’ house the evening before Thanksgiving. Despite almost never having any unwanted attention while riding my bike, on this round trip I had a person from a car holler at me as they drove along a major street while I was waiting for a light. I had a frozen custard (or something similar) thrown at me on Williams Avenue (it hit my shoulder). Then I had a group of high school kids next to me at a light roll their window down to ask if I was warm biking in the rain. It felt like my bright red rain cape was a matador flag, invoking ire as I crossed town.

• Yesterday I journeyed to inner southeast. As soon as I left my house the rain went from pouring to drizzly, and stayed there most of the time I was in it. Result: while the rain cape protected me well from the top, my socks still got wet from the spray being kicked up by my wheels from standing water on the pavement.

If getting unwanted attention and wet pants from pavement moisture wasn’t enough, there’s also a signaling problem. When your arms are covered by a big tent of fabric (and your wrists are pulled through the loops inside), it’s impossible to signal your turns.

In theory, there is a solution to this. I like to call it the Bricker signal, for the person who introduced it to me. It involves using your head to communicate your intent (you may have to click the image to see what I’m talking about):

Of course there are problems. The Bricker signal isn’t exactly street legal. It’s not as easy to see a bobbing head as it is to see as an arm, and the signal may be misinterpreted by those around you (“I’m going to turn left” could mean “go ahead, pass me on my left”). So far I haven’t had any problems with the Bricker signal, but then again I live in Portland where people are largely used to riding courteously around bikes, and I am a pretty defensive cyclist.

In short, the results of my rain cape experiments have been achingingly inconclusive. Two of the three times I’ve worn it out, it seemed to be more trouble than it was worth. I really like having gear options, because I don’t really relish needing to don my ugly rain gear to ride most of the year. But there are more mundane options that can get the job done, like a heavy wool peacoat. I am keeping the rain cape in my closet for now, but maybe not for long. We’ll see.

6 Comments

Filed under Bicycles, Montana, Oregon

Featured on BikeOvernights, Still in Cahoots with Adventure Cycling Association

Earlier this week, a modified version of my post about bike tripping to Champoeg State Park was featured on the BikeOvernights blog, one of Adventure Cycling Association’s many websites.

I’m also in cahoots with them to write a few posts for the main Adventure Cycling blog over the next year. I’ve already got an idea for the first one! Watch this blog for links as those are published.

The evening after the BikeOvernights story ran, Adventure Cycling organized a get-together in downtown Portland. The routes and mapping team was in town for the NACIS annual meeting, so they gave attendees an hour-long presentation about their work–including their current bear of a project, the multi-year conversion to GIS. I volunteered to bake vast amounts of cookies for attendees, and a swell time was had by all in attendance.

In related news, my friends Sarah and Josh recently wrapped up their six-month bike trip from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Mexico (documented on Real Big Fun). They both used to work at Adventure Cycling, but got engaged and quit their jobs to do this trip. It took them about five months! This is their end-of-trip photo, and speaks volumes about them. I adore them both, and hope to steal away to Missoula to visit them soon!

Leave a comment

Filed under Montana, Oregon