April 29, 2014

Third Annual Birthday Bike Ride

Like most, I enjoy celebrating my birthday with fun activities and good company, which is why I like to host a group bike and hike.
I assembled a group of riders outside of Machinery Row and we headed out on the Capital City Trail to Lake Farm County Park. We rode two-abreast, chatting along the way perched upon all manner of bikes - Dutch, road, fat, mountain, hybrid, and vintage.
We easily filled the bike parking at Lake Farm before setting out on foot to Lake Waubesa and then a picnic table in the sun. Refreshments, gymnastics, and fun on the playground ensued.
Before heading back into town, Tube Tats (tattoos for your bike) were distributed and our bike gang, The Ladiezzzzzzzz, was founded. It was an eventful ride.

April 16, 2014

Spring Transformation of Bike Paths

The bell broke off my bike a couple of months ago and I hadn’t bothered to replace it, mainly because I didn’t have much use for it. During the winter, I have long stretches of empty path to myself. Now that it’s warming up, it’s a different story.
Just like the migratory birds, all of the other path users are back with the warmer weather. Nice sunny days flood the paths with walkers, joggers, strollers, road cyclists, and the seasonal everyday cyclists, along with the occasional skateboarder. That’s when a bell comes in handy.
I enjoy watching the transformation with every ride - I see another species of bird that’s returned, the shoots of daffodils, as well as Madisonians coming out to walk, run, or bike off their cabin fever.  
Welcome back!

April 13, 2014

DIY or Die?

It can be rewarding to do bike maintenance yourself, but if you’re not into it, that’s cool. You can enjoy using a bike for transportation without caring about how to change a tire.
Still, it’s empowering to have a base of knowledge of how your bike works. That way, if your bike starts making an odd sound or something feels off, you can do some troubleshooting and perhaps perform a quick fix.
For me and many of my friends who bike, the desire to tinker with your bike grows the more time you spend on it. No doubt this is partly motivated by saving time and money. For example, I don’t have to worry about being without my bike while it’s in the shop getting a flat fixed.
If you decide to try your hand at bicycle mechanics, set the right expectations and have a back-up plan. Don’t try to fix your first flat in the 30 minutes before you have to leave for work! Instead of having time to enjoy the learning process, anything that goes wrong will undoubtedly result in frustration. Plan to give it a try, but know that if your wheel doesn’t go back on quite right, you can then take your bike to the shop, where the mechanic will likely be happy to give you some pointers.
Investing in a bike stand will make working on your bike much easier. Before I had one, all my attempts to put my rear wheel back on my Dutch bike never worked out. It was just too difficult to align everything with the bike tipped upside down. With my bike stand, I can confidently remove my wheel to fix a flat.
While I’ll do some basic things myself, I still have plenty of work done at the shop - especially for my touring bike, which is more mechanically complex than my three-speed Dutch bike. I’m always working to acquire bike maintenance skills, but I’m a long way from doing a full tune-up.
For the time being, I’m content getting my hands dirty every now and again to fix a flat or make an adjustment here or there. 
Do you perform your own maintenance? 

April 1, 2014

Are You Crazy?

Reflecting back on biking through this winter, it’s not the frigid winds I battled or the snow I plowed through that made the greatest impression. Rather, I can’t stop thinking about how often I arrived somewhere by bike and was asked, “Are you crazy?”
I felt like I never had a good response to this question and it always seemed to catch me off guard. While it was never posed in a rude way, having your sanity questioned by others on a daily basis can make you wonder about yourself or just make you feel weird.  
Continuing to bike during the colder months makes sense to me for all of the reasons I have described in previous posts, so I tried to better understand the statement in the question. I think usually it's meant as a pat on the back rather than a personal jab, like I must be proud to be a “crazy, hardcore winter biker.” However, I would not describe myself that way.
I thought about an appropriate way to respond. Because the question can seem to be committing the faux pas of judging someone else’s lifestyle choice to their face, it's sometimes tempting to give a snarky response. Probably just as off-putting would be to pontificate about the benefits of bicycling to the environment and one’s health. Too brief of a reply or just shrugging off the question wastes having someone else’s ear. Instead, I want to use the opportunity to advocate for biking year-round by letting them know that I don’t think I'm something special for doing so. For me, biking during the winter isn't some act of self-sacrifice on behalf of the planet. I actually find it personally rewarding.
Then one day, it just came out. I was greeted with the usual question by a stranger and I was able to answer in a way that I think describes why I continue my life by bike throughout the seasons:

“I get a lot out of the time I spend on my bike each day. It both relaxes and energizes me. It gives me time with my thoughts or to observe the world around me. It makes me feel good. It’s such a pleasant part of my day that cold weather isn’t enough to make me stop and it’s not something I can give up for months out of the year.”