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. 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.


  1. *I forgot to post what the Not So Very Secret Discount Coupon Code was, didn't I?

    Hmm. Oh well.

  2. Actually, BikeFest is replacing the annual fundraising gala that's traditionally been held in early spring, as we wanted to lower the price point and make it possible for more people to attend and enjoy the festivities. So BikeFest is both a party and our main annual fundraiser that keeps the doors open and the advocacy going.

  3. WABA doesn't really cost anything because WABA membership gets you discounts at most local bike shops.

    Enjoy B2WD. I can't believe I am missing it because some idiot ran my wife over with his SUV. Argh!

  4. Great post, very helpful. I've been trying to bike all the way to work and back (20 miles each way; Springfield to Georgetown) most days and have been learning most of this stuff myself. Just last night I learned to never be without a spare tube...

    This will be my first BikeDC, I'm pretty excited. Also, I should probably join WABA; been meaning to get around to that...

  5. Don't forget your Road ID! Inexpensive and stylish (and no, I don't work for or own stock in the company). Copy and paste the link into your browser: