De Ja Vu

The e-scooter craze might be new, but the reaction to them isn’t.

 

(I got 8 out of 10 correct. How did you do?)

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De Ja Vu

Favorite Commuting Bikes

There are so many great options for bikes that it’s hard to just pick a few. Several of my Greenville friends have asked for recommendations for around-town pavement riding, so I thought I’d compile a ‘starter’ list for reference. Most of these fall within the ‘city commuter’ category, but you can customize most mountain, cruiser, or road bike to suit your commute. For example, you might outfit a beater mountain bike in a city with high bike theft problems, or a cruiser if you live in a flat coastal area with low mileage rides, and I currently commute on a steel frame road bike model that I fell in love with that didn’t have a step through frame. Anyway, here are some general, around-town bikes to consider if you want something fun, reliable and practical (in no particular order); I’ve pictured the step through models but you can try out a men’s frame too if you need a taller size or if you don’t care about the step-through. Most bike shops carry one or several major bike brands, but you won’t find all of these at the same store. If you’re shopping for any new bike, treat it like buying a car: take the time to go to several places, talk to the staff, and take a few bikes out on a test ride at each place to get a feel for the differences between models.

 

fuji

 

The Fuji Absolute series ($400 and up) is a sporty model that’s great for city riding as well. It also offers upgrades to disc brakes, which perform well in rain/muddy conditions.

 

 

liv

 

The Liv Alight series ($380 and up) is popular for paved trail and city riding. Liv tends to carry more petite sizes and is a womens-centered offshoot of Giant Bicycles.

 

nimbus

 

The Specialized Alibi series (starting at $450) comes in a more skirt-friendly step through design, with fenders and a rear rack on the EQ model (pictured). I must admit I haven’t tried the Nimbus solid core tires for more than a test ride, but if you’re worried about flats they could be an added bonus.

 

 

jamiscoda

The Jamis Coda series ($369 and up) is a great steel frame option with plenty of gears for hills – this bike is one of Jamis’s best sellers for city riding (just add a rack and panniers), and it can easily double as a fitness bike for paved trail riding as well.

 

 

venezia

Bianchi’s ‘Turismo’ collection of city bikes ($400 and up) includes this completely gorgeous Venezia Dama, and while I should have highlighted the Torino, Milano or really any model that’s not a single speed, this one is the prettiest and I’m more than a little smitten with it. If you like the vintage European look, you may also want to check out Linus and Biria bikes.

 

 

 

PS: this is not a paid/promoted post in any form, I just like recommending good stuff. 

 

 

Favorite Commuting Bikes

Biking the Twin Cities

Last week I flew into MSP with a boxed up bike and a vague idea of what I was doing. I’ve ridden almost all the way across Wisconsin as of posting this today, and tomorrow I’ll start camping in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula as I follow Adventure Cycling’s Northern Lakes route.

Let me back up. I was supposed to do the Erie Canal with my dad this summer, but family obligations came up and we had to put that trip on the back burner for the time being. As I had just gotten all this new camping equipment for my birthday, I wasn’t about to pop the tent in the backyard for a staycation. Summer break was stretching out before me and I had to quickly find another trip before I fell into the trap of never ending house projects (which are rewarding, but not the same as a bike trip). I opted for a solo trek on the ACA North Lakes route instead since it offered cool weather, scenic country roads and the chance to see some people along the way that I owed a visit to, including family nearby that I could call in the event of some dire emergency.

So on Wednesday, I landed in the MSP airport and quickly discovered that Minneapolis is basically Disney world for people who like bikes. And 70 degree weather in the middle of June (coming from South Carolina, this feels like nothing short of a miracle). And while the North Lakes route and the incredible time I’ve had since heading out on Friday will be a story to tell, the twin cities deserve their own post as well.

I flew from Greenville to Minneapolis on Southwest, and opted to check the bike in a box for $75 so I could ride it straight out of the airport. It would have been comparable or more to ship it to a bike shop, Uber there, and pay for a build. While packing the bike at my local shop the day before took awhile (using no stand and a couple of tools I could bring to make sure I could reassemble it in the airport the next day), assembling at the airport was actually much easier than I anticipated.

For my bike to fit in a 62″ long box, I had to remove the front wheel and fender, seat post, pedals and handlebars. The front rack was small enough to leave on and it fit perfectly in the box lengthwise. My shop gave me packing materials including hub caps for the front wheel, and the bike arrived safely in MSP with no issues.

I packed some soft items in with the bike, including my sleeping bag and helmet, but my panniers and tent I dropped into a duffel bag (actually a folding bike bag, non padded) and checked that for free, taking only the necessities in a foldup shopping bag as my carryon. I brought a prepared plastic mailer with a preprinted postage label for the folded duffel bag so I could drop it and any small extras into the mail to send to a friend near Detroit, where I’ll be flying out of in a couple of weeks. I also mailed myself some casual clothes and makeup for the end of my trip when I’ll be visiting friends and family, so that I could just bring along the supplies I needed while riding through Wisconsin and Michigan. Don’t be fooled by those Stamps.com podcast ads – if you have a PayPal account, printing USPS postage labels is easy and cheap.

The bike build took about 30 minutes, and repacking my panniers probably took just as long. An airport attendant came up and waited patiently for me to finish building and then offered to take the box away, which was a wonderful surprise because I had woken up in the middle of the night a few days before the trip wondering what one is supposed to do with the large empty box and packaging (pull it around with a fully loaded bike, looking for a dumpster? wait for it to get impounded?). The whole process couldn’t have been easier. Using google maps as a reference, I rolled right out of the airport from the terminal loop to East 70th Street.

Very shortly, I was in Fort Snelling State Park and enjoying verdant trails in 75 degree weather.

I took a couple of trails that paralleled highways to get over to a very fancy REI near the Mall of America where I could buy stove fuel, since I couldn’t bring it on the plane. The trails weren’t particularly scenic, but very functional and comfortable.

After I had run that errand and dropped off my bags off at my host’s house around 3pm, I ventured out to explore the city. There are many Warm Showers hosts in Minneapolis and I highly recommend checking out that network if you’re interested in bike touring, for reasons I’ll delve into in another post.

The trails in Minneapolis are mostly paved but this boardwalk section in the Flour Gold area was a neat feature. I just had time for a loop up the riverside trail and down Minnehaha Avenue before dinner, so I was glad I had allowed an extra day for city exploring.

Minnehaha falls is a lovely park and was my first stop the next morning on my Minneapolis loop.

The sculpture garden was a nice stop in between marveling over the many bike highways in town. Seriously, there were so many trails I’ve already decided to come back for another visit.

I took a ton of pictures to try to capture the magnificence of the infrastructure, but I failed. Where there weren’t separated trails (which seemed like everywhere), there is a minimum of a painted bike lane. It was at once inspiring and also somewhat demoralizing to see how far my hometown has yet to go to come anywhere near this level of infrastructure.

I retrieved my bags and crossed over the bridge to St Paul that afternoon to visit family friends for the night before heading out on my first real day of riding early the next morning. All together, I rode 100 miles in 1.5 days of exploring the city.. a pretty good illustration of what infrastructure can do for tourism and public health.

That’s where I’ll leave off for now, because I’m still processing how much I love the Midwest so far and deeply reconsidering my aversion to cold winter weather.

I didn’t stop to edit pictures or get every detail in because I didn’t want to put off posting until I didn’t post at all. Kind of like this trip in a way.. I didn’t wait until I had a fully formed plan, I just bought gear and plane tickets and jumped in. I guess if theres one thing I’ve learned in my 20s, it’s deciding to go with the flow and maintain a mantra of “Day One” instead of “one day”. Here’s to many more random adventures along the way.

Biking the Twin Cities

Cheers to 3 years (and new gears)

 

For my anniversary marking 3 years of living car free, I went full middle aged hipster and celebrated with craft beer and a new 1×10 groupset on my commuter (halfway to a fixed gear, which is as close as I’m ever going to get). I have the tendency to put off replacing parts until it’s absolutely necessary (mostly out of laziness), so it feels like a whole new bike now that I have new gears and recently new brakes.

 

 

I changed out my brakes myself this time, and I did a fairly mediocre job if I do say so myself. In the course of planning my summer bike trip somewhere around the Great Lakes, I’ve realized my mechanic/maintenance skills really need to exist be kicked up a notch. You would think that living by bike would have taught me some basic functional skills by default by now, such as changing a flat or derailleur adjusting, but I’ve been pretty lucky over the last 3 years in terms of mechanical issues.

Well, except for the other day when of all things, I went to lock up my bike and found that the whole barrel of my combination lock had randomly broken off:

 

 

Thankfully there’s usually a bike shop nearby when riding around in Greenville, but for a 1,000+ mile trip like the one I’m planning, I’m going to need to be a bit more self-reliant.

At any rate, considering all the worries I had 3 years ago about what life would be like without a car, I wish I could go back a bit further and tell myself to just go for it. I haven’t missed car ownership once, not even through hurricanes, snow, or even moving last summer. It’s not always convenient or comfortable to ride a bike for transportation, but ultimately having 24/7 convenience and comfort aren’t what I’m after. If I’m lucky, there will be many more car free anniversaries to celebrate in my future.

Cheers to 3 years (and new gears)

March Madness

A funny thing about bike commuting, as is also often the case with bike touring, is that random inconveniences often tend to work out perfectly. For example, today I ended up with a free hour to spend downtown since it wasn’t worth riding home between work and going to dinner. In a car, I would have rushed home for just a few minutes or found an errand to run along a busy, traffic clogged road, since there’s no inherent need to drive downtown and find parking at this hour. Instead, I took a quiet bike route through neighborhoods into Greenville and have wound up sitting and relaxing by the waterfall in our beautiful downtown park.The parking is free and easy, the view is gorgeous, and it’s a perfect opportunity to vote for my town in the elite 8 of the Strong Towns bracket and unwind in the sunshine.

March Madness

#MeTwo

Thoroughly loving this episode of Unladylike that addresses two wheeled street harassment.

Spoiler alert, it’s been around as long as bikes.

I feel lucky that I don’t often experience street harassment, which is to say I’m grateful that I’m not constantly reminded that some people correlate my value as a human being by the level of sexual attraction they have to me. That’s a sad state of affairs, and we can do better.

There are so many obstacles to getting more women on bikes (and thereby making cycling safer and better for everyone), and I would hope that street harassment isn’t a factor, but I’m sure it is. It’s made all the worse when you’re a vulnerable road user as it is, just to be made to feel more vulnerable by getting yelled at and objectified by someone in a giant metal box zooming by you (add in offended, scared, upset, and/or infuriated as it applies to you and you situation).

(I also have to say, I have a pretty low bar here. I’m not offended by hellos or an occasional “Hey Peaches” by a man I pass sometimes who I would judge is old enough to be my great great grandfather. I love it when people compliment my bike and tend to assume that they simply share my level of bike obsession. Being told to smile mildly annoys me, and I often try to smile and wave at people anyway because I’m an evangelical cyclist, and because I enjoy surprising and sometimes confusing people.)

I’m not referring to any of that. I’m referring to the gassholes of the world who think it’s acceptable to install a 500 decibel catcall whistle to their redneck pickup truck that is loud enough to reverberate a rider into a ditch right as they pass by me, in a school zone no less. I’m talking about the teenage boys who yelled “NICE ASS” to me out the window of a mini van and speed away laughing, just as much as I’m talking about the women who told me I should be flattered and that I’ll miss that kind of attention when I get older when I related to them how violated I felt.

Because oh, Hell to the No.

Those instances are few and super far between. Most of the negative reactions I deal with are actually from friends and family worried that I deal with an environment that would warrant me carrying a gun or some kind of weapon (oh hi, South Carolina). I have never felt that I would be safer with one, and never felt that I would need one any more than if I drove a car. Also, if you saw me try to open a jar of pickles, you would not advise me to handle a gun. It also surprises people that I feel much safer in my current neighborhood in a mostly low income area than I do in nicer parts of town. Almost all of the people I come across are incredibly friendly, well adjusted and respectful people, and the few that prove otherwise are not going to ruin my favorite thing for me.

Most women I know don’t bike commute out of a lack of safety in terms of infrastructure, such as protected bike lanes, trails or even low traffic routes. But how sad that we live in a society that essentially tells us that we need to put on a two ton “protective” armor of metal when we walk out the door, and that to do otherwise is “asking for it”.

So for the record, what I’m asking for is my physical and mental well-being, transit equity and mobility, a cleaner environment, and a stronger, healthier community. I’m asking to ride my bike, except I’m not asking because I’m going to ride it with or without your permission. It’s unladylike, and I hope you would expect nothing less.

#MeTwo