Birthday brunch and bicycling

We filled my birthday weekend with delicious food and nice (if warmer than my ideal) biking.

We transformed a large Swiss chard harvest into this Quinoa and Kale Swiss Chard Crustless Quiche that I saw on One Hot Stove a few weeks ago, with a side of broiled asparagus to round out the meal.

I doubled the recipe and made two quiches — relatively easy and seriously delicious, all three of us devoured our pieces and went back for seconds.  Matthew said it reminded him of a grown-up take on broccoli-rice casserole.

Good thing Sir likes grown-up food!

For my birthday, I requested chocolate pudding cake, and Matthew executed perfectly (recipe coming later this week).

Later in the day, Sir headed out to Grandma’s for a sleep-over, and we pedaled eight sweaty miles (that I wouldn’t have traded for eight air-conditioned car miles) . . .

Tasty vegan food

. . . to Dinner & Bikes.*

Reflecting the flash

With the sun setting and shadows lengthening, our return ride was a bit cooler, and we further cooled things off with some frozen yogurt.

Despite reading about them for well over a year on other foodie blogs, this was my first trip through a self-serve fro-yo and topping bar — a fun ending to a fun day!


*More on the event in a later post.

Bicyclists: United we stand, divided . . .

Sigh.  I write this with a heavy heart.  What should have been a simple decision to attend a fun bicycle-related event has become much more complicated.

I first heard about Dinner and Bikes over two months ago.  It looked like a great event, uniting my two most-beloved blog subjects with its goal to “bring people together to eat delicious food and get inspired about bicycle transportation.”

However, I assumed that with the need to find care for Sir, attending would be too much of a hassle, something I could have easily done a year ago, but not so much now.  Fast-forward several weeks, and all the cards fell into place for us to have a fun evening, biking to and from the event, and sharing dinner and conversation with fellow bicycling enthusiasts.

Instead of simply buying tickets for the dinner, though, I did a little research to make sure the event was worth our time and money.  Beyond a great goal, and a list of event dates and locations, the information given on the Dinner and Bikes blog was a little sparse, so I followed some of the links for more information on the creators.

One blog in particular, Taking the Lane, seemed promising and interesting, given the title.  Unfortunately, what I found there cast a bit of a shadow on my enthusiasm:

“The great thing about Austin,” commented Joshua, not a bicyclist himself, “is that from the most in-shape to the least fearful, anyone can ride right down the middle of the lane.” He cackled and added, “That doesn’t leave anybody out, right?”

I’ve tweaked Joshua’s slogan slightly for alliteration — “From the most fit to the least fearful.” The anti-bike lane movement is welcome to take it on as its new motto.

While I love biking in St. Louis, I’m already cringing after reading this and Elly’s reviews of other cities, wondering what she’ll say about bicycling here.

Further, if this language, written by one of Dinner and Bike’s coordinators, was representative of what I would find at the event, did I really want to take part?  Would I feel unwelcome and out of place because I think bicyclists should operate their vehicles like other road users?  Would I spend the evening listening to presentations perpetuating the myth that only very fit and very brave people can use bicycles for transportation in places where there is little formal bicycle infrastructure, which goes against my beliefs and experiences and what I teach in Cycling Savvy?

In an attempt to get a bit more information, I consulted my fellow Cycling Savvy instructors — turns out I was opening a real can of worms with my digging, and not my friendly red wigglers, either.

Though I was aware that there are two differing views of cycling advocacy, one that sees infrastructure as the solution and another that encourages bicyclists to become part of traffic and work with the existing road system, my queries revealed this to be not just a friendly debate, but a loaded topic, subject of more than a few hateful and vitriolic blog posts that left me with a heavy heart and a very bad taste in my mouth.

I pose this question to you, my fellow bicyclists and bike advocates: Can we afford this kind of hateful talk?  If no, then why do we allow it to continue?

In the United States, people who use bicycles for transportation are already in the minority (in many places making up less than 1%) of all road users.  If we want to increase the number of people bicycling, make bicycling safe and approachable for all, and [although it is already a pretty darn safe activity] continue to make it safER, we must stand together.

This is not to say that there is not room for debate about various ways to achieve our goals.   I have read and understood the arguments on both sides of this debate, and, like many questions in life, there is probably no one right answer. In order to make any progress we must be at the same table, which means we need to eliminate hostile and divisive discourse and labels and categories such as “anti-bike lane movement,” “vehicularist,” and “infrastructurist.”  Only then can we move forward and find progressive solutions that address the barriers to more people bicycling.

I am a bicyclist.  I am a Cycling Savvy instructor.  I have advocated for Complete Streets policies.  I have drooled (from afar) over the bicycle accommodations and huge bicyclist mode share in places like Copenhagen.  I should not have to question whether there is space for me and my beliefs at a bicycling event.

WE ARE BICYCLISTS — united we ride, divided we fall.

Note: In the spirit of uniting with others, I just purchased our tickets for the St. Louis stop of the Dinner and Bikes 2012 Tour.  Anyone want to plan on biking with us to the event?

Cycle chic, kind of

So there’s this whole “cycle chic” thing, basically the idea that you should look stylish while riding a bike.  Beautiful people, riding around on bicycles, laid-back and having fun, what’s not to like?

I’ve long been a fan of Girls and Bicycles, a blog that embraces the cycle chic ethos.  I love reading about Sarah’s adventures up in Canada.

The problem?  It’s a lovely idea, in theory, but in practice, it doesn’t really work out for me.

For starters, I do not consider myself particularly stylish, nor is that necessarily an aspiration of mine.  If I don’t wear heels, or other cute, toe-smashing, unsupportive shoes to start with, why would I put them on just to ride my bike?  My footwear is certainly not chic, and the ankles on up aren’t much better.

The cycle chic movement emphasizes “style over speed,” which is another issue for me.  I see my bike as an efficient (and fun) way to get from Point A to Point B.  I like to ride fast.  My cycling shoes help me do that, as does my bicycle style.

The Cycle Chic Manifesto includes the following [ridiculous] guideline:

“I will endeavor to ensure that the total value of my clothes always exceeds that of my bicycle.”

Excuse me?  Perhaps the total value of ALL the clothes in my wardrobe exceeds the value of my bicycle, but a single outfit?  Not close, nor do I ever aspire to wear a $900 ensemble.  (And if I had such a thing, would I really wear it on my bicycle — the thing with dirt and grease on it?  Please.)

But the fact that I’m writing about this indicates that there is at least some tiny part of me that admires these chic cyclists, that wishes I could be one of them.  And so I bring you my attempt at chic cycling from the Festival of Nations this weekend.

Perhaps more Sporty Spice than cycle chic?

Don’t get caught flat

Sunday, I participated in a group bike ride, riding just for the heck of riding, not riding to get somewhere, a rare thing for me.  At the farthest point from the ride start/end point, someone in our group got a flat.  Not me (that would have actually been better).

I pulled up next to the hobbled bicycle with great intentions of quickly remedying things, only to find out that the rider didn’t have a spare tube.  My spare tube was the wrong size (and wrong valve type) and the only other spare tube in the group was also the wrong size.  No big deal, I had a patch kit.

(As you will see below, unless you get lucky and find an obvious puncture-causing agent in the tire and the corresponding puncture in the tube, a patch repair kit will do relatively little good on the road.  There’s a good chance you’ll need access to a sink full of water to identify the hole in the tube.)

I whipped out my flat repair kit, we removed the wheel, and I inspected the outside for offending objects.  Finding none, I removed the tube and inspected it.  No great, huge, obvious gashes to patch, just this area of roughness and wear that I thought may have indicated a pinch flat (what you get if you ride on under-inflated tires).  I proceeded to apply three patches to cover the entire suspicious area.

Long story short, we rode a bit farther, and the tire went flat again.  At this point, getting closer to the end, we switched to the “add more air and keep riding” approach.  Either my [hastily applied] patches didn’t hold, or I misidentified the problem.

Moral of the story?  Whether you’re a novice or professional biker, if you only carry one repair-related thing on you when you ride, carry an extra tube (of the proper size).  Even if you’re not carrying tire levers and a pump, with a properly-sized spare tube you at least stand a chance of someone else being able to help (more likely if you’re riding in an area with lots of other bikers).  If you ride in areas where you rarely see other bikers, or you just want to be prepared (a good idea), invest in a decent hand pump ($30-$40, get one with an inline pressure gauge), tire levers ($3), and a patch repair kit ($3).

Also.  Check your tire pressure and keep your tires properly inflated (see sidewall of tire for pressure range for your bike).  Bicycle tubes naturally lose air very quickly, so it’s a good idea to check, and most likely add air, once a week (or before every ride if you ride less frequently).

Open Streets in the heat

Yesterday, I was on my bike for almost five-and-a-half hours, volunteering for Open Streets in St. Louis. Five-and-a-half scorching, 100-plus-degree heat index hours.  It sounded like a good idea when I signed up in April.  Get up at 6am after a late night at Opera Theatre and spend lots of hours out in the sun?  Fabulous idea.

All complaining aside, I enjoyed the opportunity to experience, and help with, Open Streets 2.0 — a great day for bicycling (and walking, jogging, rollerblading, etc.) in St. Louis.

Headed home, a stopped train delayed our trip and increased our time in the elements.  By that point, I had thrown caution (and sun safety) to the wind and removed my t-shirt to prevent death by extreme heat.  Fortunately, we found a shady spot to wait it out.  Eventually, the train passed, and I mustered enough energy to climb the hill and roll on home.  I spent the rest of the day recovering.  Lots of fluids, a shower to scrub off all of the icky sunscreen, some high-quality food (the fact that we made lunch serves as either a testament to our commitment to good food or to our insanity (perhaps heat-induced?)), and a nap — just what the doctor ordered 🙂

The  next two Open Streets events will take place in September and October.  While I hope that the temperatures will be a bit friendlier then, I’ve learned not to bet against St. Louis weather.