Sunday, October 13, 2013

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, Cyclists are from Uranus: The bike advocates wardrobe…

I'm a cyclist.  Oddly enough, that kind of makes things a little difficult for me when it comes to dressing correctly to do bike advocacy work.  Most events that I need to go to involve at least a 15 mile ride to get there, and a similar ride home.  Most comfy clothes for that for me come from the Tour de France wanna-be catalogue.  Trying to talk to people about cycling in such an outfit is about as effective as dressing up like a Martian and speaking using a vocabulary based upon variations on "Ack ACK ack!"  

Happily it appears that the summer heat is over.  I can dress in "human" clothes and not completely sweat through them 5 minutes after leaving the house.  Temps in the 70s or lower are my friend.  I can ride in jeans and a light shirt and arrive not entirely stinky.  I still don't do so well with cotton t-shirts.  They just turn into sweat sponges.

Why can't I just wear human clothes?  My other advocacy friends seem to do just fine in them.  The answer is that I can wear human clothes to some point.  Jeans, shorts and some casual shirts work well for me.  While I love cotton shirts, doing any kind of cycling in them makes me sweat enough that it makes me look like I'm entering a wet t-shirt contest.  No-one wants to talk to me in such a state.  As temps get cooler, I'm able to wear more and more human clothes.  I rode 25 miles in jeans today and was fine. 

I have found some things that work pretty well for me…. when weather is warm or cold.  

Shorts:  Roadie bibs work fine under cargo or casual shorts.  I like the cargo variety since they have big pockets and advocacy usually does better with pockets.  Again, if the temps are in the lower 70s or cooler, I can ride in them and not be too sweaty when I arrive.  Cycling baggy shorts never really look like real baggy shorts.  I've found few that really do at least. 

Club Ride Jerseys (  These are basically collared shirts that look like they're out of an 1970's Western shirt catalogue.  Mother of pearl snaps, yokes and interesting plaids.  They've also got the benefit of being well vented and have useful pickets.  They're made of material that wicks well and they look almost normal.  I grew up around Western wear… worked with horses when I was young and even knew how to rope a calf at some point in my life.  The latter is a skill that I seem to have lost over the years.  (When writing this, I attempted to rope my cat Mao!.  It took me 4 tries to get it right.  Wow did he flip out!  Totally a worth-while use of my time.)  What was I talking about?  Oh yeah… Western shirts.  I've worn them for years, so I'm okay feeling like a human in them.  People look at me weird, but at least they sometimes mistake me for species human.

Giro New Road clothes.  Okay… these are a new find for me.  I work at Freshbikes and they're one of the only stocking dealers of Giro's new casual clothing line.

The shirts are sewn in the US using Merino wool from New Zealand.  So is the base layer.  The base layer, by the way, is on par with the best I've ever used.  It reminds me of Ibex, but is lighter and deals with warmer temperature ranges.  Very well made and fits great.  The shirts range from wool jerseys to casual, collared shirts with a few cycling features… like a rear pocket.  

I got a casual rain jacket and vest from them.  In addition to being a nice quality, it is waterproof and well vented.  It is a cycling jacket that looks like a cool casual jacket when I'm off the bike.  The vest is kinda neat too.  I chose the white color for higher visibility.  They have some reflective elements on them that help with visibility, but I think the white definitely has a leg up on the gray color.  

Shoes are the hard part.  I like my clipless pedals!  I like carbon-soled racing shoes too.  Those just don't cut it as advocacy footwear though.  They scream "I'm a bike freak that you can't relate to!" way too loud.  

I've found three options that seem to work well.  Giro makes a shoe called the Republic that looks like a bowling shoe.  Bowling shoes are AWESOME!!!!  though I wish the Giro looked like rental bowling shoes… red, white and blue with a big #12 on the back.  These don't.  They look like normal, lace-up bowling shoes.  A human might wear such shoes outside of a bowling alley and they are kind of normal when worn with jeans.

Giro also makes a DH or freeride shoe called the Chamber that looks a lot like a sneaker.  They look comfy and will probably find their way into my world.  

I'm also lucky to work in at Freshbikes, a shop that sells Giro clothes and shoes.

Finally Keen ( makes a cycling sandal that looks like a modern incarnation of the Birkenstock.  If I wear them with wool socks, I'll be a granola.  

I just need to be very careful how I put these things together.  I find it extremely difficult to avoid dressing like a rodeo clown.  I know that would be totally counterproductive.  I'm sure I could mix granola, cowboy and urban hipster and come up with something utterly ridiculous.  I do, however, have the ability to resist such temptations and look like something semi-human when riding a bicycle.  That is my quest!

If you see me riding around downtown or catch my flickr feed (, please let me know how I'm doing.  



Friday, October 11, 2013

Advocacy and Construction on the 15th St. Cycletrack

I'm often praised and laughed at for my stubborn adherence to the idea that positive interactions are the best way to make advocacy happen in my daily riding.  As a WABA DC Bike Ambassador, it's my JOB to set a good example and have positive interactions with everyone traveling through our nation's capitol.  This morning my cool was challenged BIGTIME! 

There's a short stretch of the 15th Street Cycletrack that has been under construction for a few weeks and the bollards and paint have been removed. People not familiar with the intersection think that this is now a turn lane.  What makes this extremely dangerous for Northbound cyclists is that this stretch of 15th Street is one-way heading south.  Northbound cyclists are riding against traffic.  In the cycle track, that is completely normal and legal.  Outside of the cycle track that behavior would be dangerous and illegal.  

Blog posts like this are virtually useless without photos… and this one has an amazing photo.  My friend Joe was on the sidewalk with iPhone ready.  I didn't find out until 2 hours later that he was even there.  (Photo by my friend Joe Flood... amazing photographer with a great eye for downtown Washington, DC.  HERE is the original link to his photo.)

I was riding into this section of the bike lane with my friend Lyds… who doesn't do a lot of city riding.  She's a country girl.  As I'm about to enter the construction area, an Audi pulls into it VERY quickly.  He came to a quick stop and so did I with about 12" to spare.  He was angry.  He thought I was a cyclist riding the wrong way on a 1-way street in HIS lane.  It is an easy mistake to make.  I was hot too.  My blood was pumping from almost becoming an Audi hood ornament.  We both started off forcefully… He said I was going the wrong way in his lane.  I said he was driving in the bike lane.  This took him by surprise.  He asked if it was 2-way traffic for bikes.  I said it was.  He said he was sorry.  I said "no problem…. Be safe!"  He smiled and gave me a thumbs up.  I told him to have a good day.

He drove off.  We rode on.  It could have been a horrible situation and a completely negative interaction.  It wasn't.  It was the power of positive interactions…  I kept my cool… outwardly at least.   He backed off when he realize that he'd made a mistake… one that was very easy to make.   All ended well.  

3 things to note.  1) I can't believe Joe was at that intersection with phone ready enough to capture that image.  He said the same thing to me in a text message later that afternoon.  

2) My friend BJ said that's the first time he has ever seen me not smiling when I'm on a bike.  I've known Beej for almost 10 years and he's probably right.  

3)  There's a lot of construction going on along the 15th Street Cycletrack.  There are signs up that say we should select a different route.  I do NOT choose another route for the reason that I ride to interact with EVERYONE along that stretch.  I talk to the construction guys to have POSITIVE interactions with them so they see that I'm NOT some law-breaking cyclist that is just in their way.  It gets results.  Many times they've put out cones to help make room for cyclists in the traffic lanes.  They're not legally required to do that!  Having positive interactions with people gives them a more complex view of cyclists.  When we're polite, nice and law-abiding, people notice and respond well in return.  It makes a difference for me EVERY DAY!

Thanks again Joe for that amazing photo.  

Rock on people!  


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Bike To School Day: A quick report.

I never do small blog posts.  Well almost never.

I was so wrapped up in stuff that I didn't get any events planned for Bike To School Day.  I suck.  I was, however, riding into town to have coffee with friends this morning when I saw a convoy of kids and parents heading to school.  They were slowing to make a left turn as I approached.  I wanted to watch the parade and cheer them on, so I unclipped and pulled off to the side.  I got my camera out to snap some photos.  I cheered them on.  They were all ear to ear smiles.  It was 4 parents and 3 kids and they were really proud and happy to be riding.  


It was only when I turned around to check traffic before pulling back onto the trail that I noticed that 6 cyclists behind me had also pulled off to watch the procession.  Every one of the spectators also had huge smiles on their faces.  

I'm glad I'm not the only sap that is happy about seeing stuff like this. 

Rock on, people.