Tag Archives: Bicycle

This Shower Cap Is My Destiny!

As Pacific Northwesters are well aware, parking one’s bike outside can often result in a wet saddle due to our ever-present rain. Even in summer. Many of us deal with the problem by carrying a plastic bag or shower cap to put over our saddle while we’re away from our precious bike. Sure, you can get a fancy saddle cover at CleverCycles…but why?

In December 2009, expecting my Sweetpea to be delivered forthwith, my mom gifted me a very stylish shower cap for Christmas. For the bike. While the shower cap wasn’t a perfect match with the whole package, it did work with the frame and had some serious character. Bonus—besides protecting my precious Brooks B17 Special from the rain, since this shower cap wasn’t clear it could also potentially thwart thieves, who also like to steal Brooks saddles. Can’t be tempted to steal what you don’t know is there, right?

Anyhow, I’ve been using this shower cap for about two years now—a year longer than I would have liked. Toward the end of my time in Vancouver BC, I noticed small holes that were starting to let rain permeate now and again. When I was home briefly in April I searched high and low for an exact replacement, to no avail. During the summer I searched on Ebay, trying to find something that would look just as splendid. Nothing.

(Although if I could have found where to get one in the US, this Hello Kitty/Union Jack shower cap would have been great.)

Whipped around in the wind for more than 20 hours to and from Montana on the back of my car this summer, the thing was really looking shabby. And sporting a large rip (left).

Knowing something needed to be done, Monday evening I went to check out the shower caps available at my local Fred Meyer.

Pink. Purple. Some barely discernable textured flowers on them. Yawn.

But wait…what was that?

My shower cap! Just one. In the very back of the bunch. This shower cap was my destiny! I quietly shrieked, snatched it, took a photo, and sent it by text to my mom: OMG OMG OMG OMG.

The new shower cap looks great, and now I know how to keep myself supplied. It may be just a $2 shower cap, but it’s the perfect solution to my practical needs and my wish to be inexpensively stylish.

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Zippy Diana Finishes Her Trip

In June I had the pleasure of meeting Diana, who had just graduated from Oregon State University’s veterinary school and was biking from Corvallis, OR, to Savannah, GA, to attend a music festival. She had contacted me through WarmShowers.org—and despite hosting nine(!) people this summer, she was the only person I met through that site.

Atticus and I were both thrilled to be hosting a vet! She’s more interested in the public health aspect of veterinary medicine (think: the Centers for Disease Control and livestock inspections), but she had lots of fun with Atticus and I learned a lot about large-animal medicine that I didn’t know before.

Diana has been journaling about her trip ever since she left Corvallis on June 10th, airing her concerns and celebrating her personal triumphs. Before she set off, she was concerned about an old knee injury causing her excruciating pain. Despite the anxiety, she was so speedy that she ended up deciding to take a side trip to participate in RAGBRAI. In order to get to the start, she had to bike across Nebraska—six days of riding at least 90 miles per day, in 100+ degree temperatures. She made it, and then did RAGBRAI, which meant essentially doing the same thing across Iowa.

After RAGBRAI she visited friends and family in Wisconsin and Chicago before starting to head back on course. She ended up taking a couple of weeks off in Kentucky (where the local newspaper wrote a story about her). She finished her trip, which included a long rest period, in 90 days.

Pretty amazing, huh?

Diana decided to end her trip in Atlanta, a month ahead of when the music festival was to start in Savannah. While the end of her trip didn’t end as you would expect, as with everything else she did it on her terms. The final entry about her trip was very thoughtful:

I learned that ‘fun’ is highly overrated in our culture. People would always ask me, “Are you having fun? That doesn’t sound like fun!” Of course the trip wasn’t always fun. I wasn’t always happy. But especially in the early days of the trip I found that the most fulfilling and satisfying experiences were those that were not fun but instead were difficult, challenging, uncomfortable, painful, or scary. We are far too preoccupied with fun. Go do something hard instead, you’d be amazed what it does for the soul.

Diana’s words couldn’t be more true—the most satisfying victories are often the hardest won.

While she is hoping to get a job at a rural veterinary practice while she completes a distance program for a Master of Public Health, I hope we cross paths again in the future. She’s a huge inspiration, and a joy to spend time with!

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The Adventures of Lycra Grrl: A Personal Best in the Bitterroot Valley

In 2000, shortly after I started commuting by bike regularly, I attended the Mid-Valley Bicycle Club’s annual Covered Bridge Bicycle Tour. That day I biked 45 miles, which was a bit of a stretch for me at the time.

Until just a few weeks ago, this was the longest distance I had ever knowingly biked in one day. After all, over the years my daily commute has been up to 28 miles round trip—who would be motivated to ride even longer distances on the weekends?

While I’ve been roaming the northwest over the past year I’ve been living about a mile away from my work or school. I’ve also been jealous of people I know who regularly ride 50, 70, sometimes even 100 miles in a day with ease. So one Adventure Saturday, I decided to don the spandex and explore a lengthy multi-use path in the Bitterroot Valley I had heard about, which reportedly offered great views of the Bitterroot Mountains. Eyewitnesses offered differing opinions on the details, but as a round trip ride it sounded like a good challenge.

Instead of adding another 26 round-trip miles to my ride, I started from the community center in Lolo where path users are invited to park their cars. I hadn’t showered that morning, and my bag was abundantly stuffed with food, my bike jacket (the forecast called for showers), sunscreen, water, and more.

The first half of the journey was mostly sunny. The further south I traveled, the hotter it got and the less shade was available. As I had forgotten my bike lock, in Florence I went inside a fire station to ask if I could use their restroom (the logic being that an unlocked bike would be safer outside a fire station than in front of the local gas station-mini mart on the main strip). Turned out that the doors were wide open, but nobody heard me halloo them. They were all in the garage area. I used the restroom and proceeded on my merry way, tempted to pinch a cinnamon roll from the kitchen in the process.

As I traveled south, the mountains became dramatically craggy, and I hoped the path would lead all the way to Hamilton, a town I had heard good things about. Right before Victor though, the multi-use path dumped me out onto the highway, which was an active construction zone. And it turns out that the only businesses open in Victor on Saturday afternoon almost exclusively sell liquor. Neither of the two eating establishments was open, nor was there a mini-mart in which to find refreshment. Even the city park lacked a water fountain! Streams along the trail had been accessible in Missoula County, but were blocked off by fascist fences in Ravalli County, meaning no cooling off or backup water source was available. If that wasn’t disappointing enough, turning around to get back to the multi-use path for my return trip required navigating about a half-mile of traffic jammed construction zone.

During the return trip I stopped and got ice cream in Stevensville. As I ate my cone, an elderly woman with a charmingly shaved English sheepdog got out of her car and struck up a conversation with me. When I told her I’d have done my personal best bike ride when I was done today, she exclaimed, “Good for you!” (Montanans are so nice!)

It was about the time I left Stevensville that I noticed the sky had become noticeably overcast. As I moved north I looked behind my shoulder and noticed some serious rain was chasing me. Pedaling as hard as I could, I tried to outpace the storm, but soon the sky was black and there was thunder reverberating between the two mountain ranges beside the Bitterroot Valley. Cars on the highway had their headlights on. Just past Florence, I started feeling large water drops on my skin, and the lightning storm started.

Sitting on a steel bike in the middle of a lightning storm—that can’t be good, can it? As a Pacific Northwester, I’ve never really needed to know safety procedures for lightning, but was filing through my brain to recall any helpful advice. (There was none.) I kept pedaling as fast as I could in an attempt to make the last nine miles back to my car before getting drenched and/or electrocuted. Eventually I approached a minuscule shelter on the side of the path—a bench with a tin roof normally intended as shade. Two people were already huddled under it.

As I approached them, I asked if they knew what to do. The man, it turned out, worked for the local power company. He and the woman, another random cyclist, had both called rides to pick them up. The woman offered a lift back to my car, but I said it was important for me to complete this ride by myself. Her ride came and she was gone. The man said to sit on the bench with my feet off the ground (now that there was room on the bench) and I’d be fine. Then his ride came and he was gone. There was pouring rain, with enormous drops that almost sting when they hit you. And despite the shelter, plenty of drops hit my hand while I was conversing with my mother via text message. The rain only lasted about 10 minutes though, and after about 15 minutes the storm had passed north. The sky was beginning to return to an eerie yellow, so I decided it was safe for me to proceed.

It was still a few miles back to Lolo, but I made it! And when I mapped the route out, even though I didn’t get all the way to Hamilton, I still biked 50 miles. Of course, many people I know could do much better, but this was a personal best and served as a thermometer of what I am truly capable of without much work (remember, my current commute is currently two miles round trip). Experiences like this severely curb one’s anxiety about attempting the unconquered.

After getting home from my ride, I ate one metric ton of food. While I was eating, I excitedly started making plans for the next long bike ride, hopefully to happen before leaving Montana. Ideas included using an Adventure Cycling Association map for a long ride to get some experience using the maps in the field. Doing a century. Tackling some mountains. After hearing of my success, my friend and well-matched riding partner Sarah suggested the two of us do a long ride together before I leave. We have tentative plans to make it happen next weekend.

Wish us luck!

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An Informal Survey of Bike Locking Methods in Missoula

Approaches to locking one’s bike are very different in Missoula compared to Vancouver BC (at left), where I lived the previous eight months. In fact, locking up one’s bike seems so unnecessary in Missoula that earlier this week, I did an informal survey of locking methods in two adjacent areas of bike parking. One is inside a semi-secluded courtyard, which has a gate to the street which is unlocked all day; the second is just outside the same courtyard on the street. Location undisclosed to protect the poor, defenseless little bikes.

LOCATION
Type of lock: Number of bikes present using method 

COURTYARD
U-Lock: 3
Cable Lock: 6
No Lock: 3

STREET
U-Lock: 0
Cable Lock: 3
No Lock: 0

Nearly the second I got to Vancouver, people started insisting that bike theft was a major problem. Indeed, the rack I parked my bike at every day was notorious for theft, and even had a plaque installed that advised “Cyclists: Park at Own Risk.” At first it just made me nervous, but a couple months in, I started looking at the other bikes and had a realization: the majority of bikes were locked by cable lock. Or as I like to call it, “take my bike…please!”

It blows my mind how many cyclists in Missoula seem to rely on the cable lock. Unlike Vancouver, cyclists don’t just ride crap bikes in case they’re stolen. And yet, the college town must be crime-free enough that in most cases, a cable lock keeps people honest.

And there’s an upside for me. I barely rode my Sweetpea while I was in Vancouver—instead, my early 80s Centurion was my daily commuter. When I was prepping for Missoula it became clear both bikes wouldn’t fit properly on the car rack at the same time. So I only brought the Sweetpea to Montana, and now have the whole summer to enjoy riding my beautiful, comfortable, made-for-me bike. Given I’m one of the few people taking the time to U-lock, I know many sacrificial lambs stand between me and my bike being carried away from me.

But I’m still going to be careful anyway.

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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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Current Commute (Canadian Edition)

At present, my daily bike commute takes me from Strathcona to Harbour Centre, which houses the Vancouver campus of Simon Fraser University, and is where I go to school. The ride takes me about 10-15 minutes each way, depending on how tired I am and how much junk I’ve been eating.

I utilize bike-only infrastructure pretty much the entire way there. First, there’s Union Street, a major east-west bikeway in East Vancouver called Adanac, then I hop onto the two-directional separated bike lane on the Dunsmuir viaduct, and then head up Dunsmuir (also a separated bike lane). At Richards Street I turn right for a two block downhill, then at Hastings take the sidewalk at a snail’s pace (it’s good Bike PR) until I turn into the building’s largest bike parking area.

Getting home is mostly the same in reverse, but on the Dunsmuir viaduct I get awesome views of the mountains, and it’s a prime viewing spot to see Science World all lit up at night, which is one of my favorite things about Vancouver.

With a few awesome exceptions (most notably anyone involved with Velopalooza!), Vancouver cyclists have largely not impressed me much. Many people ride crappy or boring bikes simply out of an assumption that their ride is going to get stolen. There’s a definite Vancouver cyclist “look,” and it involves a hybrid mountain bike with stick-straight handlebars, wearing tight cycling pants and a bright rain jacket. Booo-ring. Most people go really fast—although perhaps that’s partially because they’re warmed up by the time they get so close to town, or because I’m not in shape due to riding less than a half-hour per day the last seven months! My fellow commuters haven’t struck me as being particularly concerned with safety, even if it means good Bike PR.

Sure, there are people who don’t fit in that cookie cutter image, but in general, sitting at a window and bike-watching isn’t nearly as delightful here as it is in Portland. In eight months I’ve only seen a couple tallbikes, a couple Xtracycles, no Bakfiets (probably because of the hills), and certainly no Skuuts.

But then again, graduate school doesn’t give you a lot of quality bike time…

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