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!