Transportation Alternatives

New generations of bicycle activities continues to add new elements to riding. Whether you look at 12, 18, 21, 27, 30, or 33 gear bicycles or fixed gear bikes ushering in new events such as bike polo, there will always be adventures to be enjoyed in bicycling. Adventure cycling, like folk music, includes a wide swath of possibilities. people tour the countryside, other countries, and find new places to ride a bike. Life really blossoms with touring by bicycle, exploring neighborhoods, towns, countrysides,  and cities. Bikepacking can be touring by road or by trail. While lots of technical gear abounds, you can start anywhere, with almost anything. I started touring with two canvas backpacks tied to the handlebars and rack on my bike.

Start by planning something manageable. Keep in mind that learning how really can be the ultimate goal, not the destination. Start with a one day excursion, then add an overnight or two. This makes weekend adventuring manageable also. Look around your area for wildlife destinations, campgrounds, parks, or good hiking trails. Consider 15-30 miles as the zone to find a destination. Remembering that you will go out and back in the allotted time. Check out mapping apps such as Google maps, Ride With GPS, or Map My Ride. You can also search Ride With GPS for routes others have contributed. You might want to explore gravel roads as extra fun.  Your destination might include a short hike, nature walk, interpretive walk, or scenic overlook, so provide enough time for stopping.

Keep water with you or make sure it is accessible. Consider filter straws as part of your things to pack. Hydration packs can help carry considerably more water. Convenience stores, churches, or grocery stores along the route can help. All surface water should be treated as it is all contaminated to some degree.

Frame, bar, or rack bags carry the goods. The more gear, the more bags you will need. Use frame and handlebar bags if you do not have a rear rack. Frame and bar bags will still be useful when you finally do get a rack. Start with an affordable bag and then move to 100% waterproof when you can. Waterproofing really helps to make bike packing an option much more often than not. Tents suited for bike packing come very compact. I started carrying a 4.8 lb. tent. Kept mosquitoes out but really weighed my bike down. Bamboo utensils really help to keep the weight down as opposed to metal utensils.

Sleeping really makes for a great or challenging experience. Go for waterproofed goose down sleeping bags. Lightweight and better suited for warmer weather bike packing.  A good multitool, tire levers, a tube, travel pump, chain breaker, quick links, and an emergency derailleur hanger. On a ride in the Illinois country near the Mississippi River, a buddy broke his derailleur from cranking. We stopped and another bike rider happened to have an emergency derailleur hanger. This came as we tried to figure where we could get  a hanger, miles from any town. In about 20 minutes we were back on our way. What a different story that made instead of the craziness of trying to get to a town and find something else to work!!

Consider training for your ride. You can just about any bike for the experience. Be sure to get help making sure it is fitted properly. Flat handlebars may be the best choice if you plan to get on mountain biking trails. Otherwise, ergonomic or drop bars can provide alternate hand positions for avoiding  fatigue. Tires should fit your terrain. Gravel roads and crushed limestone trails require a 32mm or wider tire. Be sure your drivetrain starts out clean, lubricated, and adjusted. Many issues can be avoided by starting out with equipment in good working condition. Full suspension bikes’ best use is off-road riding. While the full suspension might offer you some bounce, it makes carrying gear challenging due to frame design. Get some bags packed and attached. Now go ride! Get a few or several miles under the belt.

Getting bags packed with all of that gear you set out to take. First step, root out as many items that do not seem totally necessary. Toiletry essentials only. Use Dr. Bronners soap as a one soap does all for washing body parts as well as utensils and bike parts.  Water first-bladder or bottles. No more than two items of clothing. Two pairs of socks, two shorts, and two shirts will be good for two days or a week. Small backpacking stove, cup, and cookware .Lightweight polar fleece and a waterproof rain jacket can keep you warm down in the 30’s quite nicely.  Backpacking towels are small and lightweight. Always pack some sunscreen. Sunscreen makes a great barrier in really hot weather to help your body regulate its temperature.

One adventure will lead to another. Along the way you will find new ideas for where to go, what to bring, what not to bring, and how to pack better.

March is National Women’s Month. Based partially on Women’s History, this came about in 1988. Reaching back to the turn of the century, women suffragettes- Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony attributed the bicycle to be the greatest influence on the emancipation of women.

Amelia Bloomer, the namesake of the 1800’s women’s pants that were often referred to as “Bloomers” made dress reform a major part of her work to move women from dresses and skirts to pants for bicycling.

Annie “Londenderry” Kopchovsky responded to a challenge by two men when they bet that no woman could encircle the globe on a bicycle while earning $5,000 along the way. She neither rode bike, nor was a advocate for women’s rights, yet she tackled this venture on a 42 lb. Columbia bicycle, taking 15 months to complete a round the globe trip starting and finishing in Boston, MA. Thus transformed, she became a spokesperson for both women’s rights and cycling. According to the New York World, she left an immeasurable impact on the attitudes about women.

Kittie Knox, a bi-racial seamstress, cyclist,  and card carrying member of the League of American Wheelmen, caused a real uproar in 1894 after the League declared a color bar. Knox responded by getting on her bike, entering the racially segregated social space, and forcing the issue to be addressed. She broke ground for both blacks and women, challenging perceptions of both blacks and women.

Maria Ward wrote the guide book, “Bicycling for Ladies” in 1896. Ward’s goal in writing the guide was to free women from reliance on men for maintaining their bicycles. The emancipation that she provided broadened the notion of the mechanical abilities of women. certainly someone who had mastered domestic mechanical skills such as sewing, could conquer the bike maintenance world, held distinctly by men at the time. Her opinion is summed up in the statement she made, ” I hold that any woman who is able to use a needle and scissors can use other tools equally well.”

In 1928, five women rode from New York to Washington, D.C. in three days! Marylou Jackson, Velma Jackson, Ethyl Miller, Leolya Nelson, and Constance White completed the 250 mile trek. While it is safe to assume that they had some time in the saddle, were physically in good shape, they confidently made their way. The first day they rode 110 miles to Philadelphia. The second they rode 40 miles to Wilmington< DE. The third day they rode 100 miles to Washington, D.C. How impressive is that!

During the first half of the 20th Century, Katherine Hepburn stood out as a dedicated cyclist. In her youth she rode around town regularly. She rode around the Warner Brothers lot, as well as pretty much everywhere she went. She rode most days after working a rigorous early portion of her day. Hepburn lived to be a healthy 96 yrs old due to her active lifestyle!

Joining the League of American Bicyclists in 1937, Phyllis Harmon as a member of the Evanston Bicycle Toruing Club. She published the league’s bulletin/newsletter. She became the first payed employee of the League in 1972 and the executive director until 1975. She has been indicted into the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame. She is considered to be the Grand Dame of Chicago Cycling.

During World War II, Ellen Fletcher escaped Germany and worked in a factory in London. She biked to her job everyday. Moving on to Palo Alto, CA she became a tireless advocate for bicycle infrastructure improvements. She worked on the first bike lanes leading a fight to establish green lanes to connect schools, parks, and neighborhoods in the city. She pioneered the first bike boulevard in the 1973 as chairperson for the Citizen’s Technical Advisory Committee on bicycling.

Since the late 1990’s, Deb Hubsmith came into the national spotlight as the founder and director of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership. She stepped into this role after losing her car in a crash. She swore she would never buy another. She went on to build the national partnership, starting in her hometown of Marin, CA.

Many other women have exacted influence on the social and physical fabric of our world. Hoping that with insights into what these women have done for cycling in the U.S., you may be inspired in some way.

Today, approximately 45 million women ride at least one or more times throughout the year, as compared to 59 million men. Twenty-nine million women ride strictly for recreation. About three million ride fro transportation. Fourteen and a half million ride for both recreation and transportation. More women ride that also have children, 32% versus 19% of women without children. Interestingly, fewer women than men have a working bicycle available to them at home. (55% of men versus 47% of women). Boys and girls start out riding equally as often at the age of 10, but by the time they reach 55, the gap really widens, women really falling off where riding is concerned. Overall, though, women ride way more than what might be more commonly perceived as compared with men. People for Bikes, 2015) Women now have taken over as the fastest growing segment of bicycle sales in many markets.




Utopia Revisited!

 For as long as people recorded events, writings, and other artifacts  demonstrating time and place references, the wonder of a “perfect” society or utopia has been dreamed about. Unfortunately, everyone’s idea of utopia somehow matches their own cultural bias and personal  habits and aspirations. Religious wars seem to get fought over and over again. More often than not over what the other envisions about heaven, another version of utopia. When Europeans sought to colonize other lands, it often portrayed itself as one cultural utopia exerting itself on another less fortunate social structure. In the 1960’s, and into the ’70’s Utopian […]

True Cost of Bicycling!

Calculating the cost of vehicles carries many perspectives. I started thinking about the annual cost of owning a bicycle because of two reasons. First, at a young age, I relied on used cars for getting around and when I bought a used car, my goal was to spend about $1500.00 per year average cost, including maintenance and insurance. That is no longer a realistic figure. It is more like twice that cost now. According to the National Highway Safe Administration, it is much, much higher at $9-12,000. The other reason stems from how little the average person wants to spend on a bicycle. Lacking a high enough priority for fitness and transportation, the cost of the bicycle is relegated to a hobby/ entertainment type status. So, the real question, what value best positions a bicycle in the household budget? What expenditure up front or over the long haul puts the investment into perspective.

Transit Allows Hands Free!

Recently I traveled by Transit Bus. I really enjoyed it for a few reasons. The ride gave me a hands free opportunity to make a few calls, organize my schedule some, and get a little reading done. It felt liberating to reach my destination having accomplished more than just driving. While on the bus, I chatted with a few folks around me. Now, I realize that not everyone is as social as I am, yet, the ride reminded me that driving a car is so isolated. I learn many things from people. I heard about two events that floated on […]