Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bike DC 2011

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What a day! Let me say that I probably should have looked at the route before I did the ride--it wasn't until I actually crossed the finish line that I realized that it wouldn't be ending in Crystal City (as it did in previous years). Whoops! Good thing I didn't have The Boy meet me there as I originally planned. He would have been a little mad.

Anyway, as I've mentioned before, Bike DC is a birthday gift for myself. And my birthday day started out really early....

First, I got up at 5am and headed toward work to meet with some coworkers/friends who work the midnight shift (and therefore were just getting off of work) for a mini birthday party. It was a chill early-morning breakfast/get together. I hung out with them until about 7:30 and then it was off to the registration area.

As soon as I arrived, I could tell this ride was going to be overwhelming. There were so many people! I managed to find my friends and get my bib within a reasonable amount of time. By this time, most of the riders had taken off. A friend that was riding with us was worried about being able to keep up. It was her first "big ride". I told her not to worry ;-)

One thing that struck me about the route this year was the amount of "out and backs". I'm not sure, but I'm guessing that the course had to be shortened somewhat. I know that NPS had threatened to withhold the permits for this event and it was almost canceled. Therefore they stretched out the 20 miles by including a lot of out and back loops. This would have been fine, except there were so many riders that people felt crowded. One of the aspects of Bike DC I love is being able to ride without worrying about cars, and being able to ride in areas where you normally can't--this usually leads to a feeling of openness. Not this year though, ha! We were packed in like sardines in some cases, and this led to a few short tempers. I always try to remind people that do this ride of certain things:

  • It's a ride, not a race. If you really want to use this as a training ride (which I highly discourage), then please get to the start line EARLY and be in the first group to leave. That way you won't have to run over anyone.
  • There are riders of different levels & abilities. Some are folks that haven't ridden a bike in years, or this their very first time. Give them a break. They might not be familiar with basic group riding rules. Teach by example. Do you want to be the person that discouraged them from riding by being an asshole?
  • This is a family event. There are kids. Be careful around them. They are future cyclists too.
  • Pass on the left. Signal your intentions. Move to the right if you notice that you are being passed.
  • Be nice. Screaming at other cyclists isn't cool. If you wouldn't want a driver of a motor vehicle do it to you, don't do it to another cyclist.
If you can't tell, I encountered quite a few irate cyclists that seemed to suffer from a bit of road rage. There was really no need for it. At one point, a female cyclist literally screamed at my friend because she got pushed out into oncoming cycling traffic by the shear volume of cyclists on the road. It was unnecessary and simply made her look like a jerk. Whatev. We still had a great time.

I was a little apprehensive about riding Betty in this, but I needn't have been. It turned out just fine. I had absolutely no issues with riding any of the hills with her. I heard a lot of people complain about the hills, but honestly I didn't think they were that bad. There was one point near the Marine Corps Memorial (on the way back) that it really took it out of me, but I was able to recover quickly.

The finish line came quick! I was a little disappointed there wasn't more for us at the finish line. In previous years, there was a festival-a DJ, the traveling bicycle museum, booths....I didn't see much of that here. Oh well.

Still, it was the ride that was important. And this year didn't disappoint. The weather was perfect!

Overall, I had a really great time. I can't wait for next year, and I heard quite a few participants say they wish they could do Bike DC every weekend!

As usual, some photos:

Look at everyone!

Rolling towards the Kennedy Center

Kennedy Center

Such a beautiful day

On the highway! You can see the Pentagon in the background

Betty with her bib

I have a bunch of video too, but I haven't edited it yet.

Overall, this was a great ride, and a great start to my birthday weekend. 

Bike to Work Day (2011)

I know this post is a bit late, but better late than never!

I had a great Bike to Work Day. I started off by heading to the Freedom Plaza pitstop at 8:30, even though I didn't need to be at work until noon, and I work in the opposite direction ;-) What can I say? I'm a sucker for bike events.

There were so many cyclists & bikes out and about! I took a ride down the 15th St. cycletrack and the Penn Ave bike lanes to get to Freedom Plaza. They were full of cyclists of all kinds.

At Freedom Plaza were plenty of booths with cool free swag. My favorite was the DC Water booth--they were giving out free NICE water bottles (not the cheap, crappy, tastes-like-you-licked-a-shower curtain-liner bottles), and had demonstrations of their refillable water stations. Apparently they are going to place these stations all over DC, which would be awesome. I always carry a water bottle around with me, but that doesn't help if you don't have somewhere to refill it.

There were many great speakers & speeches. Unfortunately I wasn't paying attention to most of them because I was looking at all the great bikes. I did happen to hear Mayor Gray state that he wanted to make DC a "platinum" class city for cyclists.....wooot! I think we can do it.

After all of the morning's festivities, I rode the Kleinway back homeward and got ready for work. Guess how I got to work? That's right, I biked (as usual). But I like to think I cycled with a bit more dignity for Bike to Work Day, instead of my usual slap-dash attitude.

While at work, I was also lucky enough to stop by the Bike *from* Work pitstop at Tivoli Plaza in Columbia Heights. It would figure that those that biked to work, would also bike from work--and therefore would probably appreciate a little something for that trip too.  Once again, lots of free swag & prizes, not to mention an appearance by WABA's Bike Ambassador. I met a lot of folks and enjoyed the beautiful evening. It was a great day all around.

Some photos...

Maybe not the best place to put the stage...

We got silver! Next stop, platinum!

Even Honest Abe stopped by!

The Bike Ambassador!

Look at all the bikes!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Pre-Ride Checklist

-Put air in tires
-charge camera battery
-lay out clothes
-fill water bottle
-Body Glide the crap out of myself
-pack bag

  • snacks
  • map
  • gloves
  • keys
  • wallet
  • tool bag (mini-pump, spare tube, multi-tool)
  • lock

Optional (depending on weather)

  • rain jacket
  • extra shirt, socks & underwear
I have a really long day ahead of me tomorrow. Before I even get to the start-line for Bike DC, I am meeting friends for a mini-birthday party at 5:30AM. Yes, that's in the MORNING. These friends work a midnight shift, so they can't make my party tomorrow night. Hence meeting them after their "workday". I figured since I have to be up early, I might as well start my birthday celebrations right ;-)

I plan to be at the starting area by 7am. I will be meeting some friends, and then we will be off! I will of course be using a mapping program of some kind. I might see if I can get MapMyRide's "live" mapping feature to work. I dunno. Oh, I plan on riding Betty this year. If you happen to be doing this ride, please do say hello! She's pretty hard to miss, so you should be able to recognize me fairly easily!

After the ride, I plan to hang out at the finish festival for a bit and then head into DC for brunch & mimosas.

Then it's a late lunch with the parents.

Followed by my informal birthday party with my pals.

See? Long day.

I will have my Bike to Work Day post up soon too. I had an AWESOME Bike to Work Day, and I hope you did too.

In the meantime, why don't you check out previous year's Bike DC rides?

2009's ride recaps are here and here. (Can you believe I was a smoker?!)

2010's ride recaps are here and bit of it here.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Busy Bike Week!

Stuff to Do:

I'm sure many of you have heard by now (and if you haven't, listen up) that this Friday is 'Bike to Work Day' in the DC Region. Even Mayor Gray will be getting in on the action!* What is Bike to Work Day? Well, it is pretty much implied in the name. It is a day in which You get on a Bicycle and Ride That Thang to your Place of Employment. And back again, hopefully. WABA has an entire webpage devoted to it,  including information on how to hook up with a "commuter convoy" in your area if you feel more comfortable riding with a group. There are also "pit stops" along the way with freebies, t-shirts, speeches & special celebrity guests (okay, I'm not sure about that last part).

*Wink, wink. Nudge, Nudge. I've badgered him on Twitter, and now I'm badgering him here! I fully expect Mayor Gray to biking around DC on Friday!

What if I don't have a bike?
 No problem!
-If you work near the DC/Arlington region, use Capital Bikeshare!
-Bike & Roll does bike rentals! (AND, they include helmet, lock, maps & rack. That's a deal!)
-Borrow from a friend! If you have any friends like me, they probably have more than one bicycle. And they might, just might, be willing to let you borrow one, IF you give them a sixer of their favorite beer. At least, that's what I would do.
-Check with your local bike shop (LBS). Many of them also do rentals.

But.....how do I transport all my stuff?
Ah, the eternal question. There's actually many different options, and I'm going to try to including "commuting/cycling tips" in upcoming posts. But for now, let me break it down:

-Backpacks, Messenger Bags, and other Over-The-Shoulder-Boulder-Holders:
I used to cary a messenger bag or a backpack all the time. If you have a short distance to ride and you aren't carrying an unwieldy burden, this is perfectly fine. There are many fine companies that make many fine bags for this purpose. However, I strongly discourage you from attempting to transport a case of Corona in your backpack. If you happen to fall over because your center of gravity is askew and almost all of the glass bottles shatter as a result of your collision with gravity, not only will you have the danger of sharp shards of glass piercing your back & the clear, crisp scent of Corona all over your pants, you will also be the major FAIL of the party that was expecting a case of Corona and not two bottles of it. I'm just sayin'. If you have a longer distance to travel (5+ miles, maybe 10+) or you have a lot of heavy/bulky items to carry, you might consider:

-Rear Racks, Baskets & Panniers:
Ever since I installed a rear rack on Betty and bought a fancy-pantsed pannier to use on it, I've said a permanent good-bye to messenger bags & backpacks. Gone are the days of back & shoulder pain, sticky-itchy back sweat & slouched posture. Hello free & breezy back & shoulders! Rear racks are relatively easy to install (I did it myself!), fairly inexpensive & super useful. You can buy a fancy set of panniers or a rack bag if you like, or you can google instructions on DIY versions (a very common one is the milk crate & bungee cord version). A front basket is pretty handy too, if you don't mind looking a bit girly. Plus, a front basket happens to hold a case of Corona perfectly.

-Cargo Bikes:
These are for hard-core haulers. I don't have very much knowledge of the them, so I will leave it to the experts.

Ok, so I got my laptop, my keys, my wallet, my files & other work-stuff I must schlep to the office. What else should I bring?

This is a fairly personal decision. Some people pack everything but the kitchen sink and haul it to & from work everyday. Some people are absolute minimalists. The following list is just a suggestion and you can add & subtract to it based on your particular needs & circumstances:

-A change of clothes (or you can keep a few at the office)
-Extra socks & underwear. (unexpected downpours + wet socks/underwear=unhappy workers)
-Baby wipes (perfect for freshening up when you aren't grimy enough/don't have access to a shower. Also removes bike grease fairly well)
-Bike supplies (a multi-tool, mini-pump and/or air cartridges, spare tube, patch kit, super glue, small knife, small screw driver, and your Better World Club card)
-Body glide or other anti-chafing product.
-Gold-Bond or other talc-like product.
-Shower kit, if you are lucky enough to have access to a shower.
-Phone charger
-Flashlight & Batteries
-Mini first-aid kit (band aids, ointment, hand sanitizer, anti-bacterial or alcohol wipes, aspirin, ibuprofen)
-Flask of whiskey
-Snacks (for energy or in case of Rapture-related looting)
-Rain-gear (rain jacket, rain pants, those rubber shoe-cover thingies)
-extra plastic bags (handy for covering your seat in the event of rain, as well as putting the wet stinky socks & underwear that you forgot to take home the day before. Also a shower cap is also useful for covering your seat in the rain, as well as keeping your hair dry under your helmet.)

Other things to consider:
-Helmet (in DC, if you are 16 & over you are not required by law to wear one. I still encourage it very highly. It's one of those things that is better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it. Please. I saw someone go through a car's rear windshield last week and it was Not Pretty. Literally. That cyclist, although alive thankfully, won't be winning any beauty contests anytime soon. Would a helmet have prevented that accident? No. But it sure as hell would have mitigated the injuries. I say this knowing that I'm far too often found tooling around on Betty sans helmet. I am nothing if not inconsistent. Also keep in mind that to ride many of the local trails which are under NPS's authority, you MUST wear a helmet)
-LIGHTS. Please for the Love of Gnome put some lights on your steed. A rear (red) and a front (white) light. Visibility is your friend.
-A bell or other noisemaker. A whistle even. Don't be afraid to give a toot (or ding).
-A decent lock. If you spend a good amount of money on purchasing your bicycle, then you should spend a fairly decent amount of money on a lock.
-Fenders. A good commuter bike needs them. They protect you from the urine-puddles (both man & puppy-made)
-A cycling class. WABA gives them. They are awesome. Not only will they teach you HOW to ride, but they will teach you how to ride SAFELY. I linked the adult version because I am assuming that if you are reading this blog, then you are adult. Then again, you know what they say when you ASSuME something...
-A quick look-over on your local area's cycling laws. Yes, it may surprise many of you that you are subject to traffic regulations when you operate your bicycle on public space. It is YOUR responsibility to learn them.

Hey. Did you notice how many of those links went back to WABA? That's because they are a super-awesome bicycle advocacy group that you probably should get involved with. Most of these nifty events & rides that I post about? WABA. Those nice striped bike lanes that you ride on? You can thank WABA (along with many other folks & organizations of course). The Kleinway, The Penn Ave bike lanes, hasher penalties for motorists that kill cyclists, classes, bike maps, bike repair clinics....all WABA WABA WABA. (I kinda sounded like Fozz E. Bear for a minute...)

I heard (well, not heard. Saw, I guess) someone balk about the registration price (a measly $35) for the upcoming BikeDC event on twitter the other week. Guys, $35 is an amazing price for what you get out of it. Can you imagine what the cost is to organize such a huge event? There are literally thousands of cyclists. Streets shut-down for hours. Hundreds of law-enforcement officers working OT to shut down those streets in at least 3 different jurisdictions (DC, NPS & VA). It's mind-boggling that it only costs YOU $35. (And that's only if you don't know the Not Very Secret At All Secret Coupon Code That Gets You A Discount*)

I guess what I am saying is that if you think this cycling thing is for you, be sure to throw some love (and maybe some dollars) in WABA's direction, ok?

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. Upcoming DC Bike Events.

Arguably one of the biggest bicycle events in DC/VA. And it's coming up this Sunday. Register now! This event holds a special place in my heart because it usually falls right around my birthday (last year it was on my birthday proper, this year it is the day before). BikeDC actually used to be in the Fall, but back in 2009 (the very first year I did it) it was Miserable, Wet & Cold. And it was sensibly moved to the Pleasant & Warm spring. BikeDC was one of the first "bike events" that I ever participated in. And even though I was a numb icicle by the end of it, I couldn't wait to do it again. I don't think I can describe how awesome it is to be able to ride up & down the GW Parkway without a car in sight. Or down 395 for that matter. It's even better when you're fingers & toes aren't in danger of frostbite....

I am assuming this is replacing the "Bike Prom" event that was held in the past. I am just assuming, however. Usually WABA holds a fund-raiser type event in the summer, and its always well-worth it to attend. I am a little bummed that I won't be able to wear my hideous prom dress & tiara this year (or maybe I will anyway), but the BikeFest looks pretty interesting, even if it is in Crystal City (motto: We're actually Arlington). The plus side is that this is being held at night, rather than early morning, so I can actually attend! My ticket has already been bought!

As always, BicycleSPACE hosts their weekly group rides on the weekend, one of which I AM DARNED DETERMINED TO ACTUALLY ATTEND SOMEDAY.

Truly Yours,

Cycling Tip of the Day: Assert your space in the roadway. If you are riding in a lane with parked cars, be sure to leave enough room so that you won't get "doored", which is usually a space of at least 2-3 feet.  Often this means riding in the center of a lane, or in the right-side of the next lane. This is perfectly fine & acceptable, not to mention the safe & legal thing to do.  Don't be intimated to do so. However, don't be tempted to ride further to the right (or left if you are on a one-way street) if there is a break in the lane of parked cars due to an alley/driveway entrance, or because there is simply a gap. ALWAYS RIDE IN A STRAIGHT LINE.  If you give motorists an inch, they take a mile; and you may find that you can't "merge" back into the lane position you were in before with the lane of parked cars. A straight line is predictable, and predictable means its safer. It's tempting to yield and "let"  drivers pass at that gap, but the truth is you are not doing them or yourself any favors.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Bike events tonight!

-The Building Museum is hosting a discussion on cyclist/pedestrian infrastructure. The discussion is open to the public.

More info:
Click here.

-BicycleSPACE will be showing the movie 'The Flying Scotsman' at their shop tonight.

More info: Click here.

Be sure to check these events out!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Coffee Crawl Bike Ride Round-Up

A few days ago I heard rumors of a coffee-themed bike ride...I thought this would be an excellent idea for a pre-Mother's Day warm-up. Plus, it gave me the perfect excuse to try out all the coffee shops that I kept meaning to try....but never got around to. Plus I got to do it by bike! Weeee!

I'm not a huge coffee girl. I have my personal reasons for avoiding the stuff (if you know me, you know why), but I don't dislike it. I actually love a good cup of coffee now and then*. Unfortunately, the majority of my experience with coffee has been with chains--Dunkin', Starbucks, etc. One of my New Year's resolutions was supposed to be to support local, small businesses and avoid corporate chains. Coffee shops have definitely been on my list to start with.

Let me tell you, my eyes have been opened. Since my first Americano at Qualia, I don't think I can ever view coffee the same way again. OMG.

Anyway, I read the details on the Prince of Petworth blog and decided to give it a go.

I woke up Sunday morning and almost didn't go. Helloooooo Social Anxiety.....I always get weirdly nervous before showing up to a group event. I am not the most socially adept person out there, and I tend to come off as a bit stand-offish. I really don't mean to. Those of you that have tried to arrange a meet-up with me via twitter can probably attest to this ;-)

Anyway, I swallowed the anxiety down and went anyway. And I'm so glad I did!

First, I want to say that the ladies that organized this ride, Liz & Laura, were completely awesome! This was the very first Coffee Crawl bike ride they had ever organized and you would never be able to tell. I thought it went incredibly smoothly and that everyone had a good time.

We started off at Qualia Coffee & The Bike House where I snagged an Americano. Heaven in a cup. Although I've heard about The Bike House before, I never knew what it actually was. Now I know :-) If I didn't have to work on Saturdays, I would *totally* be at one of their bike clinics from 12pm-3pm (3917 Georgia Avenue NW in the REAR). Totally love what those guys do.

(Did I mention WABA was there representin'? Woot!)

We then rode to Filter (Iced Coffee) and chilled out there while we waited for a cyclist that suffered a flat to catch up.

(Another reason why this ride was awesome? When someone got a flat, a bunch of people stopped to make sure she was okay and good to go!)

Then we went to Yola. (I took a break from coffee here. My heart was racing).

After Yola, we set off to Big Bear--this a place I had always heard of, but never actually visited. I foresee more visits in my near future. It was here that I met a group of cyclists that had decided to do participate in this ride as a way to "tour DC". They were from VA and figured that cycling was the best way to see DC. I couldn't agree more! Again, I decided against partaking of any more caffeine. Actually, I didn't realize until we were about to leave that they also serve BEER! I probably would have grabbed one instead ;-/

From Big Bear we headed to Sova in the H St. NE Corridor. Another area of DC that I've always meant to check out, but never actually get to. I think this was my favorite shop so far. They have a super-sweet patio area in the back complete with stage. I hear they do some bluegrass there on Thursdays. Definitely need to check that out. I enjoyed a nice iced chai latte while enjoying the gorgeous weather on the patio.

Our final stop was to Pound on Capitol Hill. As I was thoroughly caffeinated out, I opted to stay outside at this shop. Since I used to work across the street, I was already fairly familiar with the area (although its changed a bit in the last 6 years!).

I had a really good time on this ride and look forward to future Coffee Crawls. Plus, I now have plenty of options for a really good cup of quality coffee!

Again, thank you Liz & Laura!

*Yes, I know I go to Dunkin' Donuts almost everyday. But I don't actually order coffee everyday! Sometimes I go just to sit & chill.

Here are some pics from the ride:

Filter Coffee House 1726 20th St. NW

Yola 1323 Connecticut Ave. NW (rear)

Big Bear Cafe 1700 1st St. NW

SOVA 1359 H St. NE

Heavenly Americano from Qualia (with the Bike House in the back)
3917 Georgia Ave. NW

And here's a short video I took along the ride. I didn't edit anything, so its a bit rough:

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

April Round-Up/Lazy Post

This is going to be a lazy photo-dump rather than a coherent post because I'm doing this out of guilt of Not Posting More Often rather than I Have An Idea to Share....

Sorry... ;-)

Saw this dog BEAR being taken for a walk. The picture does not do it justice..

Betty met her soulmate! That's an Electra Rat Rod; basically the same model but for boys...

We seemed to have skipped right over Spring and gone straight to the hot, humid days of Summer...

I love the Carousel on the Mall. The seahorse/dragon is my favorite.

I voted! Again!

Finally tried it. I declare it.....Not Bad.

The Boy's birthday was this weekend and he invited two of his childhood pals to visit. We were exploring the neighborhood and I suggested that CaBi was a better way to go than silly cabs! They bought it!

Bonfires & Beer.

After the news of Bin Laden's capture, I rode down to the White House to celebrate. It was amazing. Even the ride down was full of cheering and American flags & happy (and relieved) people. I wish I could have gotten better pictures, but I was pretty swept up in the emotion of things. I didn't realize how much of a weight I carried with me after 9/11 until I felt it being lifted with Bin Laden's execution. I have a lot of thoughts to share on this...but not here.

Another amazing thing from that celebration? All of the people riding CaBi to get there! I saw a ton of CaBi bikes!

I do have actual ideas I would like to share (Bicycle Parking, anyone?) but I haven't had a chance to sit down and put them in any sort of coherent order.

April's 30 Days of Biking was a success, but only in that I pretty much bike everyday anyway ;-) May is Bike Month (or at least, I heard someone say that) and I am so looking forward to Bike DC! May 22nd! Register!

The weather has been fan-effing-tastic lately, and I want to soak up every single sunshine ray that I can before the oppressive heat starts setting in.

(I know that if I simply posted smaller posts more often I wouldn't feel so guilty and overwhelmed with trying to post Epic Posts to Catch Up, but I am the Procrastinator At Heart. Sorry).

Ride safely.