Monday, December 21, 2009

Holiday in Hogtown

This time every year I make the pilgrimage to my home town. The place where my family still lives, the town that taught me to love bicycling, Gainesville, Florida.

It's been more than 10 years since I've called Gainesville home, but so many things going on in my life today tie back to the most land-locked city in Florida.

Maybe it's the year round warm weather, the relatively flat terrain or the tens of thousands of college students who ride to class that make this town a great place to bike. Either way, it's a wonderful place to get around on two wheels.

Somehow when I was about 16 or 17 I stumbled into a bike shop and began working my way up in the ranks as a "shop rat". To this day when I see the owner of that shop he refers to me as a former shop rat, a title I've become pretty proud of. From there it was bike shop jobs in college, organizing bike rides in DC, and eventually advocacy.

This year I wasn't in town long enough to ride, but I did get the chance to do some great running, fishing, and even a little cooking and eating. Mark my words, this year I'm going to try and make it back south during the summer.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Love/Hate Relationship with Craigslist

Craigslist is amazing, especially if you like bikes. Where else can you find cheap beater bikes to build into crazy frankenbikes, gently used bike parts, and good deals on reasonably nice bikes. Now this being said it can also be a royal pain in the ass for both sellers and buyers.

Currently I have too many bikes. The "bike room" at my house is a wreck so i'm culling the herd a little which means i'm doing a little Craigslist-ing. As of this morning, there is an 18 e-mail long train of communication between me an a potential buyer who seems to have a completely busy yet completely non-traditional work schedule. I hope she makes it by to get this bike today. I could really use the cash. That being said. I'm going to pass the mic to my old friend Tim who has pretty much summed the triumphs and tragedies of Craigslist bike selling up into a short (and completely true- just wait till the real VM at the end!!) video.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Dogs and Bikes

"If your dog was a kid, she'd be heavily medicated"- My friend Kathleen, a high school teacher, said this about Scout last night. Yes- she's nuts. Yes, sometimes she does get medicated. Yes, I have learned how to use exercise to wear her out and keep her under control. Riding the bike with her running along side me has turned out to be the best solution.

First, let me issue a disclaimer. Riding a bicycle with a dog is inherently dangerous. Dogs are unpredictable, squirrels are everywhere, and both you and your mutt could get seriously injured doing this. That being said, I ride with my dog almost every day. For me it's a calculated risk based on several factors. If any of these things do not apply to you or your dog, you're on your own...

1. Scout is very athletic. She's a border collie/greyhound mix. Her cardiovascular system can sustain long distance running. Maybe consult your vet if you have an overweight dog.
2. We only ride on residential streets with low car traffic. I would never do this on a bike path or a busy road.
3. We use a contraption called the "Gentle Leader" so she can't pull.
4. Scout never gets in front of the bike. She is literally on a tight leash.
5. I am always looking out for cars, dogs, kids etc who might cause problems. When in doubt, just stop!
6. Scout is not scared of bikes. She doesn't mind being right next to me.
7. Scout is lightweight (40 lbs) and cannot overpower me.

Now that I've made this seem scary enough for you to think twice, i'll tell you why it's so awesome. In about 30 minutes I can turn my completely hyperactive dog into a relaxed normal dog AND pick up groceries for dinner.

So, if you think you might want to give this a try. Here's how to do it.

First, make sure your dog isn't frightened of the bike. If you can straddle your top tube holding the leash fairly close and he/she isn't freaked out that's good.

Second, pick a safe place to give this a try. I chose to use the baseball field at the end of my street. That way if we crashed it was soft and there were no cars to worry about.

I loop the leash around my waist, but depending on your size/comfort with having the dog that close you can tie it to your belt etc. I much prefer this to holding the leash or attaching it to your bike. The dog is now attached to your center of gravity. I prefer to ride with the dog on my right side, that way she's between me and the curb rather than on the traffic side when cars pass.

Once you can do this in a straight line you need to work on turning. With the dog on the right side, left turns are easy. I use my right hand to give a little tug sometime but it's not totally necessary. Right turns are a little more tricky. I slow down considerably and use my right hand to pull the leash away from me and the bike. Scout knows by now this means right turn and she stays inside of my track.

Well, It's time for me to go take Scout for a ride. Let me know if you have any questions!

Friday, December 4, 2009


Not "let me grab a sweater" cold. We're talking -22 windchill, snot frozen to your face, roads like ice skating rinks, everyone looks at you like you're nuts for riding a bike in this kind of weather cold. In that spirit i'm re-posting something I wrote this past spring about getting back to bike commuting and how easy it is on days like today to fall out of the habit. Enjoy!

Falling back in love with bicycling

Bicycling is my life, no joke. Bicycling is my job, my hobby, my social group, and at times my best friend. Unfortunately as with all relationships, we've been through our rough times. Last winter was one of those times. Denver got a ton of snow, I kept getting sick, and I had a nasty snowboard injury that made most everything painful. I started taking the bus to work. ME, Maggie, "the bike lady" was taking the bus to work. Ugh.

The bus was not horrible. There are a few benefits, it's warm, you can read, there's some fantastic people watching. On the flip side it took forever, sometimes seats were at a premium, and who has $2 in exact change on them at any given time?? Certainly not me.

Something had to give. My co-workers were worried about me. First it was light teasing "what happened to your bike Maggie? did you forget how to ride or something?". Once the coughing stopped, and the snow eased up, and the sun started to come out they changed their tone. "Maggie, are you ok? You seem a little off your game". I was off my game. The exercise, fresh air, freedom, and fun that I had always gotten from riding to work had slipped away. I wasn't my usual bubbly self.

Strangely enough the Internal Revenue Service plays a large role in the next part of this story. My tax refund arrived in the mail. Cash was burning a hole in my pocket. Trip to Mexico? New gutters for the house? Then it struck me. If I had this much money in my pocket any other time in my adult life, only one thing would have come to mind. A new bike...

You know those first few days after you meet a promising person who you are really into and they seem to be really into you? That's what it was like. I rode everywhere on the new bike. Showed it off at the office and the local coffee shop like a proud new parent. "Did you see the 8 speed internal hub?" "how cool is this double kick stand!" "you know you can fit a whole case of beer in this basket!". It was official. I had fallen back in love with bicycling.

Looking back at the months since then I realize that folks who are riding the bus, driving their cars, or taking the train are missing out on something big. It's bigger than loosing a few pounds or saving a few bucks. It's the smile on your face, the urge to sing along with your music, and the freedom that gets me on the bike every morning. I wouldn't trade it for all the riches in the world..

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Nice Rack!

Sometimes I joke that having a cool basket on my bike is the only reason someone might yell that at me. But we're not talking about baskets or boobs here. I've seen some super cool new bicycle parking in Denver recently that's worth sharing. Just to brag a little, the photo on the left is our office bike rack (on a cold snowy day no less!). Plus i'll let you in on a secret. My co-worker who only rides super high end carbon fibre nerd bikes loves to take deposits to the bank on the new Globe... Just don't tell his racing buddies.

Two things I feel very strongly about are bike parking and bike route signage. If you have no clue where you're going or where you can safely lock your bike, who cares if there's a great bike lane or path. More and more i'm seeing employers, retail shops, restaurants and bars realize that offering safe, visable, and attractive bike parking brings in more business and shows their employees that they care about them.

This past Monday morning I met a new-comer to my bike route to work. Over the past year a brand new LEED certified building has gone up on Larimer street and this past week Namaste Solar Energy moved in and is using it as their new Denver office and distribution center. As I stopped to take a photo of their cool new bike racks (pictured left) the co-owner and fellow bike commuter Jason Sharpe introduced himself and we had a chance to chat about the fleet of bikes he's planning to buy for his staff. His plan is to offer bikes for his staff to ride to lunch, meetings, and to city hall for permits for installations. This guy gets it!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Turkeys, Puppies, and Bike Art Oh My!

After a surprisingly easy flight, I've made it home from lovely Greensboro, NC where I spent Turkey Day with my immediate family. Lots of food (no turkey), good wine, and an all around wonderful time with my parents, sister, and new dog-nephew Winston.

I'm pretty sure one of the reasons I got into bikes was because I needed a way to burn off all of the good food my family likes to cook. I'd go into detail about all the tasty things we made this week, but i'll leave that up to my sister at She's planning to detail our thanksgiving menu (including the pommes Anna that mom and I managed to spill on the floor to the dogs delight) over the course of the rest of the week.

My sister has been dabbling in bicycle advocacy recently as she works for Action Greensboro, a non-profit group that works to build community in the area. They have been working hard to complete a really nice greenway project that I went down and checked out. My favorite part of it so far is the fabulous sign pictured above. Call me crazy, but it looks like those people are running for their dear lives from that bicyclist!!

Greensboro also seems to have a decent number of bike nerds, especially in Westerwood the cute downtown neighborhood where my sister lives. Some of them are subtle (I spotted an old skip tooth chainring and crank on a neighbor's garage door) and some are a little more in-your face and the photo below shows. My sister claims you can get on and ride the statue as a stoker and it works, but I didn't really want to cause a scene on a holiday!

Hope everyone had a super fantastic Thanksgiving. I know i'm extremely thankful to have a great family who I have such a good time with. Maybe one of these days i'll get them out for a bike ride!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Weekend of Follies!

My Globe went on it's first road trip this weekend! If you visit Denver it's well worth the quick drive up I-25 to lovely Fort Collins for the day. Not only has it been designated a Bicycle Friendly City and one of the best places in the US to live, it's also home to my favorite bicycling themed brewery- New Belgium!

My friend Darren is visiting so we threw our bikes in the back of his truck and headed north. The city is really bikeable so we parked at the edge of town and pedaled to the brewery.

Of course we went on a bit of a shopping spree in the tasting room at the brewery (the basket on my Live 2 came in super handy!). Darren is headed to spend Thanksgiving with friends in NM so a case of fresh beer was in order as a host gift. We also picked up some goodies for the employees of Darren's bike shop. What a nice boss!

Anyhow- after our trip to the brewery we rode around town, got some lunch and checked out the amazing new bicycle racks that New Belgium has been sponsoring all over town. What a great way to promote bicycling to local businesses!

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Personally I hate spending money of gasoline. I own a car, and I will admit that I use it a couple times a week for things like trips to Home Depot. It's a little hard to pick up a new door on your bike, yes it can be done but I'm not quite that hardcore.

One thing I don't mind spending money on is food. Something about the fact that I get to enjoy it AND it's fuel to get me around makes me super happy. My dear friend Alexis once said to me "Maggie, I'm not sure what you enjoy more- grocery shopping, cooking or eating!". I didn't have an answer. I love them all.

Today in Denver it's nasty and snowing. Not fun fluffy snow. Icky, sticky, wet snow. The kind that makes me want to stay inside and cook. With company coming in to town early next week this is an ideal situation. It was a good day to buy groceries and prep for some good meals.

To me, cooking and eating with people you love is what turns friends into family and houses into homes. This is something I learned from my blood family, and many of my best memories are with them or my network of adopted family members around the world. Eating, drinking, sharing stories and recipes.

I can't write about food without turning your attention to my kid sister, Cecelia. She's been successfully blogging about her culinary adventures at Mod Meals on Mendenhall for the past year or so. She's the hostess with the mostess and our family is descending on her house later this month for Thanksgiving. We're planning a few collaborative posts, I might even be able to get her on a bike. Should be fun!

So I'll leave you tonight with the recipe for what I just made for dinner. Sorry for the lack of picture (I dug in before I remembered to take a photo...). The half chicken is great for two major reasons- it's just enough food for one hungry person or two with some hearty sides and because you cook it skin-side up the meat stays more tender and juicy than it does when you roast a whole chicken.

Roast Lemon Half Chicken with Brussels Sprouts and Psuedo-Hollandaise...

The list:
Half a fryer chicken (your butcher will half one for you if you ask) splurge on free range if you can- it's worth it!
One lemon
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper

Brussels sprouts
Lemon juice
Pince of saffron

Pre-heat oven to 400F

Slice the lemon into quarter inch slices and arrange them around the bottom of a baking dish. Rince chicken, pat dry and place skin-up on the bed of lemon slices. Sprinkle generously with kosher salt and pepper. Place in the oven.

Once the chicken turns golden (about 45 minutes, but keep an eye on it) turn the oven off and begin to boil water (add some kosher salt to the water). Once it's rolling, add sprouts and cook till you can pierce one with a sharp knife and it still gives a little. Mushy sprouts are no good!

Drain the sprouts and let them start to cool while you make the "hollandaise". In a small bowl spoon out about a quarter cup of mayo. Add the juice of a half a lemon, the pinch of saffron and a little pinch of salt. Mix together with a spoon. It should be the consistency of slightly runny yogurt.

Now the chicken has rested, so you can carve it and put it on plates. Spoon up some sprouts and serve with hollandaise on the side for sprouts (and i'll admit, I dip some chicken in it too...). Don't be afraid of mayo, it's your friend....

Thursday, November 12, 2009

"I Like Your Bike!"

Today did not start off well. First was the 2:15 AM coughing fit, then when I finally got back to sleep the dang alarm went off. Time to get up... oh and did I mention I woke up too late to make coffee? Woe is me...Now i'll admit, had it been a plain old work day where I could have easily just worked an hour or two later I would have gone back to sleep for an hour and called it good. But no, I had morning plans.

You see- one of my favorite people is coming to visit next week and there are preparations to be made! Remembering the reason for my early morning plans motivated me onto the bike. Big D-international man of mystery and
purveyor of all things dreamy and bikeable is headed to Denver next week! He's the kind of guy who would have a fantastic time if you took him to play bingo with your grandma, but I want to make sure he has a super fantastic time while he's here.

Anyhow, back to this morning. The reason I needed to be downtown early was to pick up Broncos-Chargers tickets from a CraigsList post. Full disclosure- i'm not much of an NFL fan (grew up living and breathing SEC football) but D is a big fan and i'm more than happy to tag along for anything that involves yelling and drinking beer. The guy selling the tickets e-mailed me complicated instructions about where to park at his office. When I broke the
news to him that I was going to be on bike he agreed to just meet me in the coffee shop in the lobby. So within about 5 minutes of arriving I had spent a lot of money and gotten coffee. Things were looking up.
Coffee and tickets in hand, I had a big grin on my face and started pedaling the last few blocks to work. Different blocks than usual which combined with a hot and rather full coffee in my hand made for an amusing ride. A couple blocks from the office I dismounted and walked. Among other strange things in Denver we have this "pedestrian mall" downtown which is really a rapid bus route and hang out for wayward teenagers and lost conventioners looking for the Cheesecake Factory. Rather than taking the multi block detour, I decided to walk it. Moments after getting off my bike a random guy walking to his office passed me and said "Hey! I like your bike!".

To a bike nerd this is the equivalent of someone saying "Hey! You look smoking hot in that dress". Needless to say this made my morning.

Ok- time to finish that coffee and do some work.
Happy trails...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The People That You Meet When You're Riding Down the Street

Being a creature of habit, I'm a clock watcher in the morning. 7:00 the alarm goes off or the dog gets up. This is my cue to go downstairs, feed the animals and start the coffee. 7:15 the coffee is ready. Yum. The next 45 minutes are coffee, news, maybe some light housework then 8:00 is shower time. By 8:30 i'm hopping on the bike, telling Scout (the dog, yes I talk to the dog) that I'm going to work because someone has to pay for her food and toys. Her response is puppy eyes. My neighbor Alex sometimes meets me out front. We ride downtown.

Because of this pretty strictly kept schedule, the same cast of characters appear each morning with surprising regularity. No other time of day are people as regimented as they are first thing in the morning. Even though i've never spoken to most of them, these folks are part of my day.

First there are the "Latina Mommies Stroller Club" who are often gossiping and walking back from the elementary school at the end of my block. I'm pretty sure they think i'm nuts, but we exchange a smile as I ride by.

After a few blocks of neighborhood I reach Larimer Street. For those of you familiar with Denver, it's not the posh restaurant row part of Larimer, it's the other end of the street- the one full of metal fabrication shops, factories, and bars that are open at 7:00 AM. Recently a few condos have gone in. There's something funny about yuppies with tiny dogs encountering 3rd shift factory workers headed to the bar at 8:35 in the morning. The both look a little confused by the other...

All along Larimer folks are waiting for the number 44 bus. The same folks every day, waiting for the same bus. Part of me hopes they are headed clear across town, but I know some of them are headed downtown. I always hope that seeing me riding makes them consider the option.

As I roll into downtown the cast changes. Construction workers building a high rise, elderly Japanese ladies out for a morning walk, and on Fridays the bar employees out sweeping last night's bar garbage off of the sidewalks.

There's a certain amount of comfort in seeing the same folks over and over. I'd like to think they feel the same way.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I'm not a Dentist.

A friend of mine once told me that when he's on an airplane and a stranger asks him what he does for a living he says "I'm a dentist". Now, this guy isn't a dentist, or a pathological liar- he simply doesn't feel like investing the time to explain his rather unique job to a person who would most likely be confused. A dentist is self explanatory and no-one want to know anything more.

When I got my first job in bicycle advocacy I considered the "I'm a Dentist" option. I figured there was no way that the businessman, or vacationer, or fellow 20-something headed home for thanksgiving would understand yet care about what I do. Then I remembered I was sort of young and I might have had to explain how I had become the Doogie Howser of oral health.

So here it is, the "hey, we're about to land so lets chat for the last 5 minutes of the flight" version of what my job as Bicycling Advocate is: I work for a non-profit advocacy organization that works to change law, policy, funding priority and public perception to benefit bicycling.

Now I admit, this usually gets a little bit of a confused look. Over the next few months I'm going to do my best to provide some insightful examples of how this works, what it means, and how it effects businessmen, vacationers, 20 somethings and anyone else I might sit next to on a plane.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Test Ride With my Favorite Riding Partner

Whew! It's been a busy Monday but I managed to go pick up the new Globe at my local bike shop on my way home from work. What a fun ride!
My usual trip home was a blast, lots of commuters out despite the chilly temperature and the super early sunset (thank you daylight savings time...).
Once I get home every night I am greeted by about 50 pounds of spring-loaded dog. Seriously, if you've ever met her it's like coming home to a whirlwind of paws and tail. Not sure if she noticed the new bike, but her evening bike ride is the best part of her day. We usually do about 3 miles through the neighborhood. You can only imagine what the neighbors think.
So while I work on getting my act together to take some fun new photos of the bike I'll leave everyone with a quick photo of Scout after a long ride. A tired dog is a good dog...