Category Archives: Uncategorized

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The Humble Tupperware Container

It’s a bowl…

It’s a plate…

It can carry your packed lunch the next day!

You’ve already got one!

Instead of spending $15.95 for a titanium bowl so you can feel super cool bragging about it, why not bring The Humble Tupperware Container (or its sister, The Humble Rubbermaid Container) along on your bike trip?

Tupperware containers can still carry some bragging rights. When Bill got his vintage Tupperware out on our recent bike trip to the Oregon coast, we reminisced about how long the stuff had been around. Most families in the 80s had the very vintage he did.

My Humble Rubbermaid Container was procured when I went to Lewis and Clark College. I rescued it from being trashed when it remained unclaimed at the end of the school year. It has served me faithfully for more than a decade.

This isn’t to say I always advocate for the cheapest option—I’ve definitely spent some money on nicer things when I was certain the purchase would be worth it. But I’ve seen gearheads literally bankrupt themselves trying out new products. Because they’ve gotta have the new French press that’s also a tire lever, pipe wrench, ice axe, thermal blanket, and GPS unit. Whereas I’m the person who bought a mid-90’s (approximately) REI tent for $10 a couple years ago, and am still pretty happy with it.

Above all else, do what works for you. Get that titanium bowl if you dislike leaching plastics. Know though, that what works for you doesn’t necessarily require you to purchase a whole bunch of fancy-pants gear. Unless it’s more important for you to be a show-off…


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The morning started simply enough, with a gesture of friendship and goodwill when I agreed to be a friend’s teammate as she undertakes the President’s Challenge. And it ended in a horrifying epiphany when I needed to weigh myself: I have gained 13 pounds since October!

If that wasn’t enough, check this out: whereas I was borderline before, this weight gain has bumped me squarely into the “obese” category of the body mass index (BMI).

But HA, there are many documented problems with the BMI as an evaluative tool! Maybe you just gained a lot of muscle!

Let’s see here. First there was the Oregon winter keeping me cooped up inside, paired with four months of sitting on my bum writing my MPub project report, followed by a month of eschewing Pedalpalooza. All that time I’ve been trying to eat on the cheap which has resulted in a lot more fats and fewer vegetables. There was that delicious recipe for lemon ice cream I discovered just yesterday. Yeah—I don’t think that too much muscle is my problem…

Typically I monitor my weight by the measurement of my pants. When my pants get a little tight around the waist, I know it’s time to start monitoring my exercise and eating habits. But this weekend I wore a bike jersey that suddenly had a one-inch midriff in the front that I don’t recall it having before. Just yesterday I noticed my suit pants were a little tighter than the last time I wore them. A few days before, I chatted with my mom while intending to eat two or three spoonfuls of ice cream from a carton. Ten minutes later, I realized my mom was right—I should have gotten a bowl! Because I discovered I had eaten a lot more than I intended.

What’s the game plan, then?

In Missoula last summer, I started experimenting with an iPhone app and website called Lose It! The program really helped me keep tabs on my eating and exercise habits. When I moved back to Portland my life became more chaotic, and my regular use of the program quickly stopped. (Fun fact: my daily walks in Missoula were often a combined length of two and a half hours. Today’s walks in Outer SE Portland totaled an hour—barely. I have some theories about why walking is so much more unattractive in Portland, but the discrepancy is pretty telling, wouldn’t you say?)

There’s also the matter of my bike trip, which starts in 17 days. While I’ve done practice overnight trips this spring (Champoeg and Metzler), I have not yet done much hill training. According to our group leader there is at least one day with a significant climb. While I’ve primarily been focusing on my job search the last couple of months, in the next two weeks I clearly need to prioritize gearing up for this bike trip.

Over the past few days I’ve been reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, which has been influencing how I perceive everyday activities. In the book, Duhigg discusses the role that peer pressure plays in the formation of habits. I too have found that accountability to others is almost as great a motivator as a big scary red number (see above photo). In putting this blog post up on the internets I aim to do the following:
• Create public accountability of my goal. If nobody knows, I won’t have to answer to anybody, will I? Then what motivation do I have?
• Encourage people to share their stories. How do you keep your weight in check? Ensure you’re eating right and moving enough? Tell me!
•  Invite people to join me. Are you on Lose It? Let’s keep each other accountable by joining forces. Do you bike? Let’s go on a bike ride in the next several days! I’ve yet to see the Columbia River Gorge Historic Highway, Rocky Butte, Mount Scott, or many other places from my bike. Let’s get in cahoots.

Traditionally I have not been someone overly concerned about “the number” or starving myself over a societal image of beauty. However, I do like to feel good in my body, and thinking back, that feeling was loads higher last September than it has been more recently. It’s time to do a little positive self-adjustment!


Filed under Bicycles, Uncategorized

Women: Don’t Use Bicycle Slang—Leave That to the Boys!

This has been going around the intertubes quite a bit, but that’s because it’s so amusing. According to online newsletter Brain Pickings, the New York World outlined this list of 41 don’ts for women on bicycles, ca. 1895. (Brain Pickings seems to like bikes: they have several bike-centric articles, including today’s post about bike art!)

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Bike Licenses? Is That Really a Thing?

Today I learned about several cool bikey things Missoula has to offer. Finally, I encountered an official Missoula bike map, something more comprehensive than the 11”x17” photocopied map given out at the Adventure Cycling Association offices. Sure, the map was last updated in June 2005, and the cover photo was taken in China and not Montana. But it’s more durable than the former, which I’ve already needed to replace once due to a water spill inside my watertight messenger bag.

Then I met Bob Giordano, the head of MIST, who I hear has been instrumental in getting Missoula to be as bike-friendly as it is*. Next, I learned more about Freecycles Missoula, who assures a free bike to anyone and does a bunch of cool community events.

Then I found out about the bike licensing.

“Any person who operates a bicycle within the city limits needs to purchase a city bicycle license. Bike licenses are issued to protect the owner of the bike. You can receive a fine for riding an unlicensed bike within the city limits. If your bike is stolen or lost and recovered, you have a greater chance of getting it back if you have licensed it. Any questions or comments can be directed to the Bicycle Coordinator…”

As a matter of fact, I had many questions:

Bike licenses? Is that really a thing in Missoula? Really? I need to pay $10 to the City of Missoula to ride my bike around for the next 12 weeks? Or else get a fine?

Examining the license form, I found I had a few more questions. What if my bike doesn’t have a serial number? Or a model name? Or if I don’t want to put your license sticker on my bottom bracket? What purpose does this serve? Are the police going to pull me over at random and check my bottom bracket for a sticker? Or is this a program designed to try and track the town’s bicycle trends? The City of Portland (Bike City USA) seems to think that a bike licensing program wouldn’t even pay for its own administrative costs, so what’s so different in Missoula?

Instead of going to the Missoula Bicycle Coordinator, I decided to do a straw poll among my coworkers. As a newbie, it is my preferred method on getting a general reading on anything I’m wondering about at any particular moment. It was also after 5pm so most people were gone, meaning my sample size was one.

The one person I did ask thought it was strange that the subject had come up twice in one day in the office, and no; she doesn’t think anyone actually licenses their bikes.

According to the Missoula Public Library, I am a resident. Thus, according to the City of Missoula dog licensing site, I would need to license Atticus as well, despite our only being in town three months. Just like that license, I plan to openly disregard the bike licensing thing. On the other hand, part of me thinks it would be a real hoot to go through the process to see how it works. Talk to city workers to try and find out more.

What say you, internet readership?

*=The Adventure Cycling Association, a national organization, may have staff members who get involved with the local bike scene, but it is not a priority for the organization as a whole.


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Exciting Bike Improvements Along the Springwater

Recently I got some great news about planned safety improvements along the Springwater Corridor, at an intersection very near my house in Portland. This fall, Clackamas County will be adding a bike signal—the county’s first!—to the intersection of Johnson Creek Boulevard and Bell Avenue.

The intersection presents a unique challenge, because the old rail line (and now the Springwater) cross the intersection diagonally. When I was a kid, it was common for car traffic to be stopped for minutes at a time for a passing train, before train service finally petered out. Ever since Johnson Creek Boulevard got an I-205 offramp in the early 90s, and the Springwater opened in 1996, both car and bike/ped traffic have been steadily increasing, and safety concerns along with it.

Despite being an extremely cautious cyclist, I’ve had close calls with motorists at this intersection on a few occasions. I’ve also witnessed many more close calls. Almost all of these have been from motorists making a right turn from northbound Bell Avenue onto eastbound Johnson Creek Boulevard (next to the building above), and failing to check the crosswalk before starting to make their turn.

But there are other safety issues as well. Springwater traffic climbs so high on nice summer weekends that sometimes there isn’t enough curb space for users that are trying to make the double-cross to navigate the intersection. A group of more than three bikes usually finds one person spilling over into the street. And during the couple of times the Hood to Coast race has come through the area, the curbs were even overflowing into the streets with participating runners.

Because I live nearby and have witnessed so many traffic snarls, I’ve been suggesting for several years how much could be improved by adding a diagonal bike signal at this location (drawing at left). Bike signals are extremely expensive infrastructure, though—$248,000 is one estimate I’ve seen thrown around. Given that Clackamas County is perpetually underfunded, does not generally prioritize bike/ped improvements, and residents are generally unwilling to chip in for the common good, I assumed my dream would never be realized.

Then again, there are instances where it just takes one injured person suing a cash-strapped government entity to make them suddenly find money or re-prioritize a safety hazard. Or perhaps sustainable transportation dynamo (and personal hero) Lynn Peterson had something to do with this before being called to the Governor’s office.

However it happened, I don’t care—I’ll take it! This is amazing news for our forgotten little neighborhood, and I can’t wait to return home and try out the first bike signal in Clackamas County.

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My Review of Thule Spare Me XTR 2 Bike Rack

Originally submitted at REI

The Thule Spare Me XTR heavy-duty 2-bike carrier fits onto your rear-mounted spare tire and features reliable, durable construction.

This is a Rack I Can Live With!

By bikish heather from Portland, OR on 5/7/2011


4out of 5

Pros: Durable, Lightweight, Easy to Install, Stable

Cons: Bike nesting

Describe Yourself: Avid Cyclist

Was this a gift?: No

Preparing for an upcoming road trip/temporary move, I needed a bike rack that wouldn’t require hoisting my bikes well above my head, and which would allow access to my dog in the cargo area of my 1999 Honda CRV. Originally I had tried a similar spare tire rack by Yakima, a company local to me. Unfortunately it had a design problem that saw me exchanging for this Thule.

Right away the Thule was easier to deal with: lighter weight, easier to install, more intuitive design. Most importantly though, it was solidly secured on my car, unlike the other one.

It is a bummer, I’m having trouble loading both of my bikes on the unit as-is. I think I’ll need to remove my saddles before my trip, as the bars aren’t playing nicely enough with the saddle of the other bike to allow both bikes to fit as they should on the rack (even when adjusting the tube rests on the unit). If the bar arms were a little longer I think I could make it work, but one saddle already has a small gouge out of it from the bars of the other bike when I was trying to nest the two together. If removing the saddles doesn’t work, I’ll just leave one of my bikes at home—but at least I’m more confident that whatever bike I load back there will be nice and solid and actually survive the trip.


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My Review of Yakima SpareTime 2-Bike Carrier

Originally submitted at REI

The Yakima SpareTime bike carrier mounts right to your spare tire and carries 2 bikes—never leave your spare tire at home again.

Great Idea, Imperfect Execution

By bikish heather from Portland, OR on 5/7/2011


3out of 5

Pros: Durable, Easy to Use, Easy to Install

Cons: Unstable

Describe Yourself: Avid Cyclist

Was this a gift?: No

In less than a week, I was heading to Missoula to do a summer internship at a bike advocacy organization, and needed to get my dog, my bikes, and my stuff there safely in a 1999 Honda CRV. I bought the SpareTime as a solution for my bikes, which includes one $4000+ custom bike—precious cargo.

When I installed the SpareTime, it was able to rotate about 1-2 degrees in either direction, which made me nervous. On the front page of the instruction manual Yakima says that any play the unit has will be exacerbated by road vibration, wind, etc., so get things as tight as you can. I tried calling the Yakima customer service line and in addition to a couple of tips they gave (which proved fruitless), they suggested I return to the REI I bought it at and ask their advice.

When I returned to REI, two separate employees came out and tried to tighten the unit further. It was then we deduced that the fit of the rack unit onto the tongue is not as snug as it should be. So the problem is with the design itself, not my installation.

I ended up exchanging for the Thule equivalent of this product, which is much more solid and centers my bikes more than the Yakima did. I was sad to not patronize a company that was local to me, but I’m not going to risk poor performance when it comes to my special bike!


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Truth in Advertising, Or Lack Thereof

Promotional videos like this one concern me with their overgeneralization. I often hear bike advocates equate bicycles with happiness, sometimes going so far as to suggest you can’t ride a bike and be unhappy. In the video above, we get a very general claim that people from one of the world’s most bikey cities are “happier,” without any asterisked study to back it up. This is followed by a claim that the video’s fictional character is happier riding their bike. Of course, because in Bikey Land, everything is kittens and rainbows and the mere act of pedaling quite magically curbs your obesity, clears up your backne, and makes you irresistible to the opposite sex. Right?

Personally speaking, one of my most unhappy periods was when I was riding my bike in the wet, cold weather for at least two hours a day. Several of my bikey friends have struggled with depression. A few obese friends have ridden bikes regularly, and gotten stronger, but remained obese. We struggle with our backne almost as much as we do getting along with the opposite sex. The point is, while ads like these make biking attractive to people (which is, of course, the mission of this organization), the truth is so much more complex. And as a person who doesn’t need to be courted anymore, it’s hard to see such overly optimistic (and ultimately untrue) messages. Maybe it’s because when videos like this make the rounds among the same old people, they’re preaching to the choir?

This may be one of the reasons advocacy sometimes irritates me. Gray areas are rarely acknowledged by many die-hard advocates I know—just the black and white talking points which lead to a central message. Personally, I’d rather see advocates acknowledge complex issues, spur dialogue, and approach their advocacy intelligently (say, backing it up with research) than merely giving a the old razzle dazzle.

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Gettin’ Ready for Montana

This morning’s trip to REI resulted, rather unexpectedly, in acquisition of a pair of Keen cycling sandals (Keen’s waterproof shoes are a favorite) and a Yakima rack for my bikes. This was all in preparation for next Monday-ish, when I’m planning to head out* for Heather’s Walkabout II: Ridin’ and Sangin’ in Montana.

I’ll be spending my summer with the publications department of the Adventure Cycling Association, being the awesomest intern in all of Montana. When I’m not on the job, I’ll either be riding my bike, taking Atticus to the enormous park with a creek next door or climbing the mountain across the street(!), researching for my thesis-like project report for my graduate program, or something else that will send me hurling toward nirvana.

*=For those of you playing the home game: less than 48 hours ago I left Vancouver BC for Portland OR, where I stuck almost everything I own in storage about 24 hours ago. The past few weeks have been hectic indeed.


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