Archive for the 'Bicycling' Category

Biking from Boston to Montreal

June 7, 2018

Last year I buried myself in the architecture licensure exam study books, and after 15 months, I finally passed all exams in March.  I realized, in all my studying, that I dis-engaged from my community, which had a negative impact on my mental sanity and happiness. So, I’m launching back in with the effort to have a positive impact and make change around me. If anything has taught us in these more trying political times, it’s that we need to step up and take action for the things we care about. Joining the Boston Cyclists Union’s fundraising and awareness campaign to bike from Boston to Montreal is just the first step in my personal mission to DO MORE.

(Side note: My trusty Jamis bike I was going to ride on the trip was smashed by a truck a few weeks before the ride. So I doubled down on my research to find a new steed. With many friends’ help, I settled on a custom build of the All-City Space Horse, with a crankset more geared towards climbing, cable actuated hydraulic brakes, and fatter-than-I’ve-ever-ridden tires. The tires proved to be invaluable on Vermont’s many rough roads and the rooty, rocky trails. I first rode the bike a week before the trip, cutting it real close, but the Space Horse proved it’s gracefulness on the varied terrain and made me a more confident rider.)

Biking the 400 miles to Montreal from Boston in five days was a transformative trip for many, including myself. For me, it was about conquering fears/doubts of ability of tackling trail obstacles (slippery roots, rocks, logs), plowing through mud, steep uphills, loose gravel and wicked fast descents. Making split second decisions about what line to pick, where to put your weight, how much to brake or let the bike go. And learning all this on a new bike – which ultimately gave me the confidence I needed to relax and just go at it. The new bike is good at fast descents, rock hopping, and mud bogging. I was definitely on edge in many moments and practiced breathing, concentration and focus. I never fell and managed to pop over logs and quick steep uphills that used to stop me.

Camping also throws its challenges your way, from the wet, the cold, and the biting bugs. At times I did wonder why I liked to camp, but then that night the temp stays above the dew point and the views of calm lake waters sparkling in the early sun all make it worth it.

The off road parts we did were mostly on the West River Trail in VT. I don’t have any pictures of the super gnarly trail because I was too busy trying to hold on! I definitely gained more confidence and the beauty of difficult things like long climbs is that you put your head down and eventually you get to the top!

The last riding day -110 miles from Burlington to Montreal proved to feel the fastest and strongest for me. It was hot with rolling hills and flatlands. A glorious tail wind helped and my legs were ready to kick into machine mode and consistently hold a quick pace. It was the first time I’ve felt that way and felt so good to be strong after 4 other tough hilly days. Maybe it was the dip in the chilly Lake Champlain waters that cut the lactic acid from my muscles.

Riding in Montreal was also transformative. I kept expecting the infrastructure to end, to die out and dump you on a narrow road like it does in most places in the US. But it didn’t! It continued and the network was connected and allowed you to just keep going! Seems like a simple thing but it made traversing the city a smooth and joyous experience. We also had a mini seminar with bike advocates from VeloQuebec and the Montreal Bike Coalition and learned more about the history of the cycling infrastructure movement in the city.

Another valuable aspect of the ride, aside from personal achievements, is that of meeting new people, expanding the friend circle and seeing friends improve over the week. The kindness and sharing I saw throughout the week was also amazing. And having no cell phone service was great (tho not for checking weather radar). There’s nothing like biking in 50s and rain to make you appreciate any kind of food, especially the most amazing peanut butter cookie cream sandwich I had at some small country store. The worse some things become, the better others are.

Thank you SO MUCH to all my campaign supporters! YOU made this possible, and certainly lessened my stress (It was raising the money that stopped me in previous years!) Your gifts will be made in the next few weeks – I promise! Now I can weave stories from the trip into them 🙂

Here’s a few pictures from the ride:

 

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Thoughts on weather, winter, bikes, and horses

February 3, 2018
Today, as the cold grips me, I’m reminded of an essay I wrote March 2017 capturing a similarly cold expedition. Sometimes I long for horses, and so, living in the city, I turn to my bike. This essay parallels the experiences between my horse days growing up on Star, a Quarter Horse, and current days with my bike, AB (Aurora Borealis as Jamis calls her).

Thoughts on weather, winter, bikes, and horses

It’s 12 degrees outside. But it feels like -2. Winds are 18-22 miles out of the North, with gusts up to 45mph. The last few weeks, months, really, have been in the 30s-60s.

This particularly cold day brought back a (frozen) flood of memories of my horse owning days. Saddling up for a quick ride is quite similar to gearing up for a bike ride into town. There’s all the layers. The planning. The weather checking.

My dad said once that when we experience weather – especially wet, windy, wild weather – its like having a conversation with the atmosphere. The weather knows your weaknesses right away and isn’t shy about pointing them out. The weather helps you zoom into the present moment, realizing your vulnerability and assessing next steps – press on, or plan B?

I’ve realized that, like being outside in all types of weather, choosing to bike everywhere requires a certain mindset, and certain recipe with a pinch of stubbornness, a dash of crazy, a splash of practicality and touch of adventure.
Having just recovered from a stomach bug, and 10 minutes into my 25 minute ride and feeling a fresh, unfamiliar deep cold pain as I hadn’t felt in so many months I wondered if it was a good idea to be doing this. I should have worn a headband in addition to my hat, as the wind smugly pointed out.
There’s no such thing as bad weather, my dad also says, only bad clothes. And yet, these thick gloves are to the atmosphere, a thin permeable scrim which the wind easily pierces. As I try to warm my fingers at stop lights, my focus lingers longer on the traffic and pedestrians, and my fingers become less of a distraction and warm without my noticing.
On the way home, the wind pushes me from behind and I’m glad I’m headed this way – agreeable to the wind. The brakes of AB are slow to engage as we approach a traffic light, my thickly padded fingers struggle to pull the levers back almost all the way to the cork bar tape. I make a mental note to tighten the brakes when I get home, out of the whipping wind. This pulling back motion, carefully even on the front and back brake, like on each rein, reminds me of pulling Star in, and on a windy evening headed home, she would be reluctant to stop too. She’s just as eager to get back to the barn as AB is in getting back to the basement.
I dodge fallen branches and swirling plastic bags along the path. AB doesn’t spook at the enlivened plastic the way Star would have. For that I’m grateful. We move as one, seeing the same obstacles, and moving swiftly. The power of my own legs moving up a hill reminds me of the power I could feel beneath me in Star’s movement. Her traction solid and sure, just as the tires grip, and leave behind, the pavement.
I’m thankful that AB doesnt get scared of things I can hear in the wind. But sometimes the studded tires catch on a loose cobble on the path and I have to catch my balance. These moments, and riding over speed humps and bumps are particular reminders of my horseback riding days – having to be nimble and balanced, ready for any sudden shift in direction. As with snowy and icy conditions, when body and machine can skate through acting as one, just as body and animal can navigate a technical trail as one is the most satisfying: working in unison, despite the tricky conditions. Out-tricking the trickery.
Growing up in Minnesota I remember dreading going out into the frozen tundra and walking the 200 feet ( but it felt like 2 miles to my 13 year-old self) to the barn. Inside seemed fantastically warm when the wind was suddenly cut out of the equation, scolding you in howls and reminding you of its power and presence by drifting snow in through cracks under the thin metal cladding of the barn.
Picking out the frozen chunks built up in the horses’ hooves is not unlike the snow/ice balls I have to stomp out of my mountain bike cleats. The metal has the same binding affect on both of our feet, and when left unattended, gives us an added inch or two of height and the most awkward way of walking.
The frozen chin, the out-of-breathness, and frozen toes are all the shared experience between each steed. The urging forward leg muscles complement the pedaling forward muscles. My heart racing just the same in each.
Bikes like horses, require regular maintenance and upkeep. A quick rub down of the steel and the coat after a ride, the lube of a chain, a brushing and shaking out of the saddle pad.
The relief from the wicked wind is welcome. The adventure worth it, to put your mind in the present moment, to have that conversation with the atmosphere, to be apart of that story, and to have one to tell.

Target drawstring saddle cover!

April 2, 2014

Target drawstring saddle cover!

I like the Target plastic bag design, so why not make it into a tailored bike seat cover? It’s also good camouflage for nicer saddles.

Underside view of the drawstring

Underside view of the drawstring

Bearings to Bicycle Bling

January 18, 2014

I admit that I sometimes peer into the trash, out of curiosity. You never know what you can find. I got lucky this particular time, when I spied a collar full of ball bearings – a part of a headset for a bike. My friend thought it was beyond its useful life. Because it is a cool object, I thought there must be some reuse…and sure enough – a necklace fits the bill!

necklace

Bike bearings as bicycle bling

Bicycle mechanic tool belt / apron

December 27, 2013

It has been too long since I had a good sewing project, so I leapt at the chance to tackle a request for a bicycle maintenance tool belt/shop apron. As it turns out, there aren’t very many other examples out there, so I did a little of my own customization. Working with a limited selection of fabric colors and weights made it extra fun. There are 7 big pockets, with 10 places to hold Allen keys or other tools/rags. It’s a woven grey now, but won’t be for long. The dirtier the better, because it will be getting used!

Tool belt - laid flat

Tool belt / Apron with 7 large pockets and 10 smaller places to stash Allen keys or other tools.

allen key holder detail

allen key holder detail

mechanic belt stitching detail

Stitching detail

Tool belt

Tool belt

Tool belt demonstration

Tool belt demonstration

water bottle follies

February 20, 2013

So, the other day I was doing a bicycle experiment with my friend. We were riding the bike share bcycles and I had my waterbottle in the basket. I was going fast down 7th Ave, headed away from uptown, and I hit a bump…watch what happens.. (click on the image to activate…)

Water bottle gymnastics

DIY street experiments

February 12, 2013
The case for separated bike lanes  (source: Atlantic Cities)

The case for separated bike lanes (source: Atlantic Cities)

Since I’ve taken bicycling seriously in the city I’ve really started to pay a lot more attention to the streets – the widths, the speeds, the potholes, the jerks, the friendly faces (I’ve noticed I have more eye contact with people when I’m on my bike), the connectivity and lack of. You see a lot more when you’re on a bike, then when you’re in a car, I’ve found.

Here’s an article that is quite inspiring…

http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2012/08/case-separated-bike-lanes/3015/