How to Bike in the Rain

920288_10151376553381673_793057753_o
I couldn’t find a photo of myself riding in the rain, but this pretty well sums up my feelings on the subject.

Last week, we looked at how to approach your bike commute when it’s just plain cold. Now, we’ll tackle the real challenge of winter riding…

Riding in rain

I can’t shield you from the truth: Riding a bike in the winter rain sucks. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s look at how to make it suck less and why you should do it no matter how much it sucks.

There are two approaches to commuting in the rain: You can dress for work and then encase yourself in waterproof layers so that the rain (theoretically) won’t get to your work clothes; or you can give up, accept that what you wear on the bike is going to get wet, and pack your work clothes in a waterproof bag to change into when you arrive. When it’s drizzling out, or just threatening to rain, I take the first approach. As soon as the rain is hard and consistent enough that I’d have to turn on my windscreen wipers in a car, I switch to the second.

For the first approach—making yourself waterproof—my best advice is to remember to shingle your clothes. That is, make sure that your waterproof layers overlap such that the rain trickles off of one onto the other, rather than off of one under the other. Don’t tuck your rain pants into your boots unless you’re cool with water sliding down your pants and pooling at your socks. Don’t wear a rain jacket with the hood hanging back such that it collects rain and conveniently funnels it in an icy stream right down the back of your dry shirt. You get the picture.

For the second approach—radical rain acceptance—I gather my entire work outfit, right down to the undies, and put it in a waterproof bag for my commute. If you have a waterproof pannier, awesome; otherwise, a sturdy garbage bag in a non-waterproof carrier is fine. Then, I dress in an outfit that’s slim, warm and quick-drying for the ride–usually thick leggings, a long-sleeved wool shirt and a rain jacket. When I get to work, I change everything out and hang anything that’s wet over my bike to dry in time for the commute home.

The one thing that I can never figure out in the rain is shoes. Aside from strapping garbage bags around my ankles or riding in giant, clunky rain boots, I can’t figure out how to keep my feet dry when riding in the rain. So I’ve given up on this point. I wear ski socks with ratty old dedicated commute flats, then change into a nice pair of shoes I keep at work when I get there. My friend Sarah, a cyclocross racing beast who knows a thing or two about riding in all weather, actually does recommend wearing plastic bags on your feet. She recommends wearing a wool sock, a plastic bag (like you get from a grocery store) wrapped around your foot, then a shoe, then a cycling shoe cover. I haven’t tried this yet, but I’m going to give it a go (minus the shoe cover) next time I have a rainy commute!

What about the bike?

Most bikes are designed not to melt, so whatever you ride in fair weather is what you can ride in foul. However, there are a few extra bits to keep in mind:

  • USE FENDERS: If you’re going to be riding in the rain at all, a solid pair of fenders is a good idea. Without fenders, your wheels spray rooster tails of road filth all over your shins and back—not a great look! I have these fenders and Morgan has these ones, and they’re both fine. If you’re not sure which fenders will fit your bike, check in with your local bike shop. If you’re into it, you can put your fenders on your bike yourself, but I find them to be a finicky pain. If I didn’t have a live-in bike mechanic, I’d take them to my local bike shop or collective for installation.   
  • MOUNT LIGHTS: Get some bike lights! You should have front and rear lights on your bike no matter what the weather, but having lights mounted on your bike and turning them on in the rain is essential. I have the absolutely bog-standard headlight and rearlight combo from CatEye and I have no complaints.
  • DRY YOUR BIKE: Your bike is made out of metal, so it wants to dry off after a wet ride just like you do. When I get home from a rainy commute, I often just leave my poor bike to shiver in the garage, but if I were living my best life, I would quickly wipe it down with a shop rag and wipe down and re-lube the chain.

But why not just skip it?

So you’ve seen how you can ride in the rain, but why should you ride in the rain? For me, it comes down to the power of discomfort.

Rather than twisting myself in knots trying to make riding in the rain comfortable, I ride in the rain because it’s uncomfortable. Throwing my leg over my bike on a wet, gray, near-freezing day is grim. The wind and rain sting my eyes, water trickles down my neck and the tips of my fingers get numb through my gloves. As I battle the elements, I sometimes wonder why I don’t just hop in my climate-controlled vehicular chariot like a normal person.

Then I get to work. I shed my rain layers and change into my warm, dry clothes, I make myself a cup of tea and settle into my toasty office and I feel great. I’m grateful for the basic human joys of shelter and warmth, and I feel glad for the chance to sit since I’ve just had a workout. Had I driven, I’d be shuffling in annoyed and grumbling because I got cold and wet on the dash from the car to the office. I’d slump into my seat and immediately feel sluggish, since I’d already have been sitting all morning.

Bear with me as I get a little philosophical. I’ve come to realize that some of the things we value most in life take some effort and work to achieve, and effort and work are often uncomfortable. Maybe you’re receiving deserved criticism from your boss. Maybe you need to have a challenging conversation with your partner. Maybe you’ve realized your eating habits are unhealthy and you need to change your diet. These situations are uncomfortable, but you have to be able to work through the discomfort they cause if you want things to get better. I’ve found that by intentionally putting myself in uncomfortable but ultimately beneficial situations, like riding to work in rough winter weather, I’m learning how to live with and work through discomfort. I know what it feels like to be uncomfortable, but I also know that discomfort comes to an end and that it has not, as of this writing, killed me.

So putting ourselves in uncomfortable situations not only brings us contrasting joy when the discomfort stops, but it makes us stronger and better emotionally equipped to handle the next discomfort we have to face, perhaps when the stakes are higher. Which all boils down to:

Get on your bike and ride. Even when it’s raining.

How to Bike in the Cold

15094311_10153825756956673_5256331901210916669_n

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The days are getting shorter, the air is getting colder and at some point, we may even see some precipitation in the eastern Sierra. This year, I’ve been heartened to get lots of questions from friends and colleagues about how to keep bike commuting through the winter in Reno. I’ve been riding in Reno in all seasons for three years now, and I’m happy to share what works for me. I’d also love suggestions from others, since I have some winter riding blind spots that I could use help with.

I started to write this all as one post, but it got unbearably long. So, I broke it up into three: How to bike in the cold, how to bike in the rain (spoiler: it sucks!), and how to bike in the snow. This week, we’ll cover how to ride when it’s…

Just plain cold

If you take one thing away from this post, let it be this: Don’t invest a bunch of money in specialized cold-weather cycling clothes before you’ve even tried cold-weather cycling! In my experience, most people in Reno already have all the gear they need to bike through the cold.

When the temperatures dip into the 40s, 30s and below, I break out my downhill ski gloves. I think that most Renoites have a pair of these stuffed in their closets, and if not, you can usually find a pair at Goodwill for a few bucks. To protect my frozen nose, my favorite item is a free cowl I got in a Desert Sky Adventures swag bag. If you don’t have one of those, a thin scarf wrapped around your lower face (and secured by tucking it into the back of your helmet) will do. On my feet, I wear an extra thick pair of ski socks under either leather boots or plain flats. When it’s really cold, I throw on my biggest, warmest down jacket and ride at a leisurely pace so I don’t get sweaty. I’ll admit that ski gloves, a pink cowl, ski socks with flats and an oversized puffy isn’t the most glamorous sartorial ensemble, but it’s warm and it works.

Once you’ve used what you have in your closet for a few weeks, take note of anything that really bugs you and invest in a more tailored, technical solution if you’d like. Do you hate the bulk of wearing a giant down jacket? Look for a lined, wind-resistant soft shell. If you’re ok with being a little cold and first and then biking faster to warm up, a light down jacket like Patagonia’s wonderful Nano Puff Hoody is an awesome option, especially because it has a fitted hood that will go under your helmet. If you feel like a derp biking with ski gloves, get yourself to REI and test out their zillion glove options. But again, I’d only drop major coin on winter biking gear after you’ve done it for at least a few weeks and discovered what’s most important for you, lest you waste money on inappropriate gear and end up resenting the bike.

Beyond the clothing tips above, the best advice I have about how to bike in the cold is…just bike in the cold. Wrap up as best you can, make sure you have something covering your hands, feet and head, and get on your bike. This morning was 18ºF in our fair city, and here’s how my commute went:

Minute 0: “Fuck, it’s so cold.”

Minute 1: “Still really cold. Better bike faster.”

Minute 2: “Nice, biking faster has warmed me up.”

Minute 8: “Whoa, toasty! Better slow down.”

Minute 11: “Bit cold again.”

Minute 14: Fin.

Commuting in the cold makes you appreciate the relative warmth of your office, gives you permission to indulge in the donuts your coworker brought in, and may be the only time you get outside midweek during the short days of winter. Harden up and just do it!

Update: RTC Board Comes Through

img_20170117_140514917
Hopefully, a green light for improvements to Virginia Street.

I’m so pleased to update Tuesday’s post with the news that the RTC Board voted unanimously to deny the proposed design modification recommended by two RTC directors last week.

To recap, the modification would have had significant impacts on the wide sidewalks, street trees and outdoor seating that were central to the community’s acceptance of the agreed-upon design. More important, the modification would decrease pedestrian safety on the street (relative to the accepted plan) by the RTC directors’ own admission. The community raised a stink about the last-minute proposed change, and many local residents, business owners and property developers spoke out against it at today’s meeting. The property owners who had pushed for the design modification were also present and made their case, but ultimately the RTC Board chose to listen to the majority of constituents and reject the change. Hooray!

Credit where credit is due:

  • Ward 1 Councilmember Jenny Brekhus sent this letter to the RTC Executive Director highlighting the increased costs and decreased safety associated with the proposed modification and demanding an explanation. I don’t pretend to understand the ins and outs of city politics, but as a 3-year resident of Ward 1 I’ve consistently felt that Brekhus truly listens to her constituents and does what’s in her power to advocate for them. This is yet another example.
  • RTC Board Members Paul McKenzie and Neoma Jardon, both representing Reno, moved to deny the proposed modification, and the rest of the RTC Board unanimously agreed. Thank you for listening to your constituents.
  • RGJ City Life reporter Mike Higdon reported the story in the RGJ and live-tweeted Thursday’s meeting, which was helpful for those of us who couldn’t attend. He does his job well and I’m glad he’s on this beat.
  • Many individuals took time out of their day to attend the meeting, or if they couldn’t attend, to email or call their representatives. I don’t know how this vote would have gone without those actions, but I can’t imagine that they didn’t play a role in the outcome. If you attended or spoke out about this, thank you! (Even if you voiced an opinion that’s opposite to mine, thank you for doing it where the public can hear you.)

Until the trees are planted and the concrete is poured, I will be wary of the solidity of the plans for Virginia Street. However, weeks like this demonstrate that the community has a clear vision for this project and can get together to fight for it. Let’s stay on the alert for updates and keep holding public representatives accountable to their constituents. Let’s do what we can to show concerned developers that the agreed-upon plans will be an economic boon to their businesses, not a bane. Let’s keep working together to make sure this becomes the great street we need at the heart of our city.

Check out the RGJ’s coverage of the meeting and the decision here. Additionally, Addison’s analysis at Reno Rambler adds a great perspective and can be found here.

RTC Pushes for Same Old Virginia Street

img_20170117_131834002
Virginia Street in all its glory. Is this really what we want to perpetuate?

This post is rife with frustration, so if you’re already in a bad mood, skip it. If you’re already familiar with the Virginia Street project, you are excused from reading the next three paragraphs. If you have any corrections, clarifications or other points of view on anything below, I would love to hear them.

Way back in 2014-15, the Regional Transportation Commission solicited community input on plans to overhaul Virginia Street. The street has been considered a blight in the community for decades. With tiny, non-ADA-compliant sidewalks, poor sightlines from cross streets and unsafe pedestrian crossings combined with high traffic speeds, the street is a hassle and a hazard to navigate, no matter what your conveyance. It was clear that something had to be done, and with the RAPID transit project underway, this was our opportunity to reform the street. I didn’t get involved with this project until mid-2015, so I can’t speak to the beginnings of the process, but by the time I came along the RTC had put out several design alternatives for consideration and was in the middle of the long process of figuring out what the community wanted out of this street.

So they held community meetings. So many of them! Community members were given myriad options for providing input. There were giant, blown-up maps spread out on the tables that we could write on to express our thoughts, frustrations and suggestions for individuals blocks and intersections. There were mockups of all of the proposed plans propped up on easels and people gathered ‘round, engaging in discussion, building consensus and sparring through some arguments. During town hall-style sessions, we voiced our opinions out loud and listened to the perspectives of young people, old people, business owners, home owners, those with disabilities, moms, dads, kids, cyclists, pedestrians and drivers. We reviewed the plans at home, came up with our own plans and brought those plans to the meetings. We kept coming back. I felt like it took a lot of time and a lot of energy, but many of my friends and colleagues worked ten times as hard on this project as I did. It’s what we thought we had to do to get our voices heard and to turn this blight at the center of our community into something awesome, something we could be proud of, something that worked as well as it could for everyone.

The plans that were eventually agreed upon (located here for the section from Liberty to Center Streets), known as the “Locally Preferred Alternative” or LPA, were not perfect. They didn’t include dedicated bike infrastructure, the main thing I wanted out of the street. But I understood that for this particular mix of business owners and citizens and city officials, separated bike lanes just didn’t have the necessary support. That’s not great, but it’s ok. No one got everything they wanted. I consoled myself with all the other fantastic and forward-thinking elements that WERE included in the LPA, like sidewalks as wide as 22 feet to allow much more space for pedestrians, benches, art and outdoor dining to exist on this street. Like space for shade trees so that someday this might actually be a street you’d want to walk down in the summer. Like lower speeds and fewer pedestrian-vehicle interaction points, leading to a much safer experience on Virginia. These would be HUGE improvements. They weren’t everything, but they were a hell of a lot of something. They made all that time and energy feel worth it.

Then this week, this showed up.

This is a recommendation to the RTC from Executive Director Lee Gibson and Director of Engineering Jeff Hale to “approve a design modification of the Mid Town section [of the Virginia Street project] from Liberty Street to Vassar Street that eliminates the proposed raised center median, which restricts left turns at private driveways and specific intersections and replace it with a center two way left turn lane.”

Wait, what?

From the same document, summary section:

“Recently, concerns have been raised from a few Mid-Town stakeholders regarding the potential for adverse business impacts due to the LPA limitations on left turns within the Liberty Street to Vassar Street section. A request has been made to reconsider the LPA in this area.

“Replacing the median island with a two way left turn lane would generally maintain the same amount of parking spots as the no left turn configuration. [Ed. note: THANK GOD] The additional space needed for the median lane would be obtained by narrowing the proposed 11 foot wide sidewalks on each side to six feet. Bulb-outs would be constructed at locations for pedestrians to cross; however, the reduced sidewalk width would eliminate space required to accommodate street trees and other furnishings…While this change can be incorporated into the final design, a two way left turn lane will be less safe due to increased vehicle and pedestrian conflict points and will degrade traffic operations, which can increase congestion.”

In short: A few business owners whispered in the RTC’s ear and suddenly two years of consensus building, community outreach, and civilian time are out the window, along with our plans for a walkable, livable, human-scale street. We’re back to 6 foot wide sidewalks (the literal least we can do in order to comply with the ADA), no trees (enjoy the beginnings of heat stroke as you stroll down your tiny sidewalk in full sun on an August afternoon), increased pedestrian danger (probably fine since no pedestrians will want to be on this street), increased traffic congestion (a Virginia Street classic!) and oh! I almost forgot:

“Approval of this item will increase final design costs.”

Awesome.

I find this very, very frustrating. As I said, I didn’t spend anywhere near the amount of time that my more dedicated neighbors and friends did on this project. Yet even with my relatively low-level involvement, I left work early to attend meetings. I skipped dinner with my family. I left my 9-5 job staring at a computer screen to go home and stare at another computer screen so I could read and understand the proposed design alternatives and offer an informed view. The opinions I voiced were with the majority at every single meeting I went to. But based on this recommendation from the RTC Directors, that work didn’t matter. After years of wasting the community’s time, the RTC is willing to accept an unattractive, dangerous, expensive alternative at the eleventh hour because a handful of business owners are too shortsighted to see their own feet as they shoot them.

So. The RTC is meeting Thursday to discuss this (meeting time and location info below). I am going to do my best to go, but as my first obligation is to the job that pays me a salary, I might not be able to make it. At the very least, at the recommendation of my councilmember, I’ll be writing an email to each member of the RTC board and copying the city council, the acting city manager and the public works director to voice my opinion on this nonsense one more time (names and emails for all are listed below). The basic gist will be:

  • This is an unacceptable alternative.
  • This alternative flies in the face of nearly every element that the public wanted for Virginia Street based on the meetings I attended.
  • An enormous amount of civilian time and energy has already been sunk into this process, and it’s bad faith and bad politics to screw your constituents so blatantly with this kind of recommendation.

RTC meeting to discuss proposed design modification:
Thursday, January 19, 1 p.m.
Washoe County Commission Chambers
1001 E. 9th Street, Building A
Reno, NV 89512

RTC Board
Paul McKenzie (mckenziep@reno.gov)
Neoma Jardon (jardonn@reno.gov)
Ron Smith (rsmith@cityofsparks.us)
Bob Lucey (blucey@washoecounty.us)
Marsha Berkbigler (mberkbigler@washoecounty.us)

Reno City Coucil:
Mayor Hillary Schieve (schieveh@reno.gov)
David Bobzien (bobziend@reno.gov)
Jenny Brekhus (brekhusj@reno.gov)
Naomi Duerr (duerrn@reno.gov)
Oscar Delgado (delgadoo@reno.gov)
Paul McKenzie (as above)
Neoma Jardon (as above)

Acting City Manager Bill Thomas (thomasb@reno.gov)
Public Works Director John Flansberg (flansbergj@reno.gov)

Case Study: My Dad’s Commute

I’m fascinated by the transportation choices people make. Why do some people accept expensive, time-consuming, annoying car commutes while others make the leap to biking, walking or taking public transit?*

Way back in September of this year, I had the chance to tag along on the commute of one my favorite cyclists who came over from the dark side: my dad. I snapped a few photos and got his take on driving vs. cycling, what holds us back and whether back sweat is really that big of a deal. I hope you enjoy it!

*Note: If you’re a former car commuter who made the switch to biking, or if you’re considering trying biking, or if you just want to talk about what a pain it is to cross 6th Street, I’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment or email me at joanna dot trieger at gmail dot com. 

 

img_20160913_065506250
One happy commuter!

Commuter: Kevin (my dad!)

City: Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek, Calif.

Commute Length: 2.5 miles one-way

Commute Seasons: Year-round

img_20160913_065801873_hdr
The main boulevard that connects my dad to the bike path recently underwent a “road diet”: one car lane in each direction, a center turn lane, wide bike lanes in each direction and sidewalks with landscaping. This thoroughfare used to be pretty intimidating when I was a kid, but now it’s easily walkable, bikeable and crossable. Also note our speed: a nice easy pace for a morning commute!

My dad, Kevin, works for his local transit system and rides the train from my parents’ suburban city to his urban office every day. Until a few years ago, he used to bridge the gap – two miles from home to the train station – by car. Yikes!

Recent infrastructure improvements have turned the route from my parents’ house to the station into a bike commuter’s dream. Once you exit their low-traffic, slow-speed neighborhood, the entire route follows either on-street bike lanes or a series of separated bike/ped paths. Over- and underpasses allow cyclists to avoid navigating major roads, and secure bike lockers at the station are inexpensive.

All of these improvements, along with a healthy dose of persistent nagging from me, convinced Kevin to give cycling to the station a try. He got hooked right away, and now he’s a year-round bike commuter. I recently had the pleasure of tagging along for one of his commutes and getting him on the record about how he came around to biking.

img_20160913_070155643
Chugging along on the canal trail.

When did you start bike commuting?

About two-and-a-half years ago.

You were fairly hesitant to start commuting to the station by bike. What held you back?

I can hardly remember now why I was so resistant. I think one issue was having a safe place to store the bike – I used to see bikes locked up at the station with seats missing, wheels missing, just the frame locked up, totally pillaged. I didn’t want to deal with that. I was also worried about getting too hot.

img_20160913_070335818_hdr
Sunrise on the trail: not a bad way to star the day.

 

 

img_20160913_070454532_hdr
Pointing out the suckers stuck in traffic. Our path cruises under and over the streets with heavy traffic, all the way to the station.

How did you get past those holdups?

For the theft issue, once they installed bike lockers and I figured those out, I was fine. As for getting too hot, it hasn’t really been a big deal. I installed a basket on the back of the bike to put my backpack in so I wouldn’t get sweaty, and then I just take it slow in the morning. I leave myself an extra few minutes and take my time. I could bike faster, but why would I when it’s such a nice time of day to ride? In the summer, I sometimes get a bit sweaty on the way home, but then I’m home and I change, so who cares?

 

 

img_20160913_070943003
A bike and pedestrian bridge climbs over the six-lane thoroughfare below.

Financially, how does biking compare to driving?

The locker costs $0.05 per hour, and I lock it up for about 10 hours a day, so that’s about $0.50 per day. Just parking a car at the station costs $3.00 per day, and that’s before you think about the cost of gas and wear-and-tear. So I save $2.50 outright every time I ride my bike, and I’ve been doing this for two-and-a-half years. [Ed. note: conservatively, that’s savings of $500/year, or a total of $900/year when you factor in the gas and wear-and-tear costs of driving!] All the upgrades I’ve made to the bike – installing the basket, adding a bell and lights, adding a new leather seat – have been completely paid for, as have the bike-specific clothes I’ve bought, like my wind jacket. Financially, it’s a total no-brainer.

 

img_20160913_071027304_hdr
A bike and pedestrian bridge climbs over the six-lane thoroughfare below. Kevin points out the unfortunate drivers.
img_20160913_071129201_hdr
Cruising down the bridge toward the station, lit up in the background.

Do you miss your car commute at all?

Not in the slightest. I never really thought about it much, but I didn’t like it. It was stressful to get on the road first thing, and parking was annoying. Now I love my commute. It’s just great to be outside for that bit of time in the morning and get moving. Even when the weather’s bad, I find it fun to be out in it. When you factor in parking, the time difference between my car and bike commutes is negligible, and that’s giving myself time to ride slowly and enjoy it.

img_20160913_071404250
Bike Link lockers at the BART station. These secure lockers rent out for $0.05/hour, or $1.20 for 24 hours. My dad usually leaves his bike for ~10 hours, or $0.50/day. In contrast, parking a car at the station costs $3.00/day.
img_20160913_071505759
Happy bike snuggled in its Bike Link locker.

Thanks for having me along, Kevin/dad! If any other bike commuters want to share their motivation for getting started, let me know if the comments or contact me at joanna dot trieger at gmail dot com.

100 Miles of Pizza

I got a new bike a couple weeks ago (this one is named Steve, or Steven when he’s in trouble), and since I will never turn down an opportunity to track things longhand, I started logging every mile I rode on the little beast into a Google Sheet. Last Friday, exactly two weeks after his first ride, Steve passed his very first 100 mile mark.

100 miles on a bike means different things to different people. For some it seems impossibly far, while others rack up those kinds of numbers pretty regularly before lunch. Luckily, we can translate those miles into a unit that everyone can understand, the radian of the caloric-expenditure-and-redemption world: slices of pizza.

zah
Constantly.

Using this handy (and completely unverified) calculator, I can see that someone my size (~140 pounds) cycling at my commuting pace (~10-11 miles per hour) for one hour will burn 381 calories. One hour is exactly how long it takes me to complete my daily total commute of 10.4 miles (15 minutes for each 2.6-mile leg, back and forth and back and forth). That brings me to 36.6 calories per mile, and we’re going to call it 37, because at Reno Bikes, we round up.

When you google “how many calories are in a slice of pizza”, Google says 285. I’m willing to accept this. I eat a fairly monstrous amount of pizza, from homemade slices that are probably slightly smaller than Google’s estimate to Wild Garlic’s insane braided-crust basket o’ pizza style slices that are more like dinners for three. We’ll just go with 285.  

Also from that Google results page, courtesy of Wikipedia: “Pizza is a flatbread generally topped with tomato sauce and cheese and baked in an oven.” Ah, to be the early hive minder that dropped that tidbit of knowledge into Wikipedia!

Anyway, 37 calories per mile for 100 miles divided by 285 calories per slice equals 13 slices of pizza! Embarrassingly, I eat significantly more pizza than that in an average fortnight, but still. Digging myself 13 slices out of the caloric pizza pit in which I constantly dwell is not insignificant.

Considered from another angle, it costs money to drive a car. My employer compensates us $0.575 per mile driven, and some estimates put that number even higher. For simplicity’s sake, and because biking isn’t quite free, let’s assume that driving a mile in a car costs $0.50 more than biking a mile. The 100 miles Steve and I have traveled together already saved me about $50! Assuming that an average slice of pizza costs $4, I could take my savings from not driving those 100 miles and use them to buy 12.5 of the 13 slices I earned calorically by biking.

There you have it, folks. Bike to work for a couple weeks and you get to basically binge on pizza, for free, with no consequences for your waistline. That’s all the encouragement I need. See you in the bike lane!

Oh, the Places We’ve Been!

IMG_20160524_161739310

Last week I bought myself a brand new bicycle. It came about fairly quickly – I was frustrated with my old bike (a dark green Windsor Tourist affectionately named Mike the Bike), I saw a good review of a decent workhorse bike in Bicycle Times, I found a similar bike in my size on clearance at the local REI, and I bought it within an hour of testing it. I LOVE the new bike, but it wasn’t until I was riding to work the next morning that I realized that an era had come to an end. For nearly five years, I rode Mike the Bike at least ten miles almost every day, and then as suddenly as he came into my life, he and I were over. I’m not ashamed to admit that it made me a little emotional. And on that note, I thought I’d clack out a little tribute to Mike the Bike.

The San Francisco Years

I first rode Mike to work on December 1, 2011. I couldn’t come to a complete stop, I went downhill slower than I went uphill (due to terror), I couldn’t take either hand off the bars (sorry, signaling!) and I absolutely couldn’t stand up on the pedals. That first commute was rough, and my heart started pounding that afternoon at the thought of having to make the return trip home. But Mike was a solid bike, and he stayed in tune despite my newbie efforts to kill him. I quickly improved and started to look forward to riding. Before long, my commute was my favorite part of each day.

Together, Mike and I completed the classic San Francisco cyclist’s hat-trick from hell: We were hit by a car (not our fault), hit a pedestrian (NOT OUR FAULT) and bit it over the Muni tracks (totally our fault), all in the space of a calendar year. For our final San Francisco performance, Mike and I were severely right hooked by an unmarked van, leaving both of us dented and shaken up, but undeterred.

488202_10151019834081673_94666519_n
Young Mike and young me with the Golden Gate Park bison, mere minutes into our first bike tour together.

The San Francisco era also ushered in our first long-distance bike trip, from our San Francisco apartment along the coast to Morgan’s childhood home in Santa Barbara. I fell in love with bike touring and Mike fell in love with his granny gear.

396468_10151019834421673_2130956181_n
Mike and I about to take on the Bixby Bridge, swallowed in fog on the California coast.

The Auburn Experiment

Auburn was a wacky place to live, but damn, was it a fun place to ride a bike. I worked 16 miles north of home, so twice a week Mike and I would enjoy the 32-mile round-trip commute along gorgeous Placer Hills Road, with a total of 3,000 feet of climbing. Our fastest one-way time was 1:21, after which I nearly ralphed. We often rode home in the dark, getting spooked by the roaving packs of deer lurking just beyond the road’s edge (record deer sightings for a single home commute: 32). Once, we were about to roll through a desolate three-way stop when a crashing sound made me jam on Mike’s brakes. A second later, two enormous bucks careened down the roadside embankment straight into the intersection, horns locked in epic combat. Mike and I escaped to higher ground to watch the fight play out.

During our time in Auburn we were gifted a Burly trailer and watched our leg muscles quadruple in size as we hauled Banner back and forth from the dog park. Mike and I would frequently coast down the hill to meet Morgan pedaling up from his office in Lincoln, stopping a couple miles from home to get dollar ice cream cones to fuel the return trip. Due to our almost complete lack of a social life in Auburn, I was in the best shape of my life and I think Mike was among my top five closest friends.

IMG_20150321_141655911_HDR
Just hanging out with my best friends on a bike camping trip. Poor Banner had recently had a cup of scalding tea spilled on his head.

Getting it Right in Reno

We moved to Reno in July 2014, and Mike and I immediately fell into a groove. Bike to work, bike home for lunch, bike back to work, bike back home. Bike to get groceries thanks to that sweet Burly trailer, bike to the bar, bike to the river. We quickly discovered that almost everywhere in town was super easily bikeable, and Mike’s stout construction and zillion gears made short work of any stray trips up into the hills.

IMG_20151219_131137406
Mike, Burly and a group of scragglers take advantage of Costco’s bike parking while shopping for our Christmas cabin trip.

Since moving to Reno, Mike has been able to indulge his inner traveler a little more with tours through Oregon (amazing!) and Utah (less amazing!). Mike currently lists Bend, OR as his favorite city on earth and earned his beastly stripes on the 26-mile climb up to Crater Lake and the 20-mile, 4,000-foot climb out of Utah’s Cedar City.

11998863_10152973613391673_8952055466817835122_n
Mike checks off a bucket list item, meeting Mt. Bachelor in 2015.

Mike has kept me fit, happy and not broke in Reno, but he’s really shined the most here in his ability to attract friends. Thanks to the Reno Bike Project’s repair class and group rides, and to the somewhat small but very active group of cycling enthusiasts in town, my introverted self has been able to forge more genuine friendships with fun, like-minded people than I ever thought possible.

Sadly, in late May of this year, Mike’s (mil)age and my admitted total neglect of his care and upkeep started to catch up with him. One of his wheel rims exploded, he began shifting like a garbage truck and eventually lost his ability to shift at all. As is the fate of so many bikes, when it became apparent that it was going to cost more money to fix Mike on an annual basis than to replace him, I decided the time for his retirement had come.

IMG_20160523_150825085
Mike’s last tour in the red rocks of Utah.

Mike and I traveled around 15,000 miles during our years together. He put dollars in my pocket that I didn’t spend on gas and allowed us to become a one-car family. He let me consume literally thousands of slices of pizza while steering clear of obesity. He transported me to some of my favorite places and best days and nights on this earth through the magic of bike touring. Most importantly, he put me in contact with great friends and brought be closer to my husband and to both sides of my fantastic bike-friendly family. This little assemblage of steel and cables has had a more profound impact on my life than I could ever have imagined on that first December commute. Mike and I may have ridden our last miles together, but he’ll forever have a special spot in my heart as the bike that started it all.