Saturday, June 28, 2014

Flat tires-- Because stuff happens

From the moment I got my bicycle, I've had one question asked of me, both from experienced bike friends and those who have never been on a bicycle in their lives, more times than any other. Day after day curious minds would make a jab about cycling, and then follow up with the ever popular question:

Have you gotten a flat yet?

The first month I was pretty lucky. I would smile all cheeky and say, "Nope not yet. Maybe I just repel goatheads."

No sooner than I was making smug remarks on how fortunate I was that my lucky streak of constantly inflated tubes had gone on for a whole month, that it happened on a commute to school that I finally got my first flat tire.

There are no words to describe the feelings of anxiety, hopelessness and sheer panic that comes over a novice cyclist at the sight of their first flat. Do I have an extra tube? Should I patch it? Should I replace it? How do I take the back tire off again? What if I put too much air in it? What if I don't put enough?

I had had a tube changing lesson a couple of weeks before my flat, and everything that I had learned went straight out of the window. Everything, but one solid piece of advice.

Stay Zen.

Having a punctured tube on your bicycle is just as stressful as walking out of your house and finding your car with a flat tire. But, and this goes with dealing with both, freaking out isn't going to do anything to change the fact that you are out of air. Stressing out only raises the possibility of making a mistake that could damage your tube and stretches out the time it takes to actually change or patch the tube.

So, instead of thinking that my flat tire had brought on my own personal armageddon, I was able to zen out and think of the best, logical and fastest way to fix my flat and get back on the road. In my case, it was to take another patching lesson.

As it turns out, it's really easy to change a tube. All you need (besides a clear head) is some glue, a bike tire lever, sandpaper, some patches and a bike pump. From there, it's pretty easy. Of course, it could have been that I was changing the tube in a garage instead of the middle of a bike trail or on the side of a busy street, but learning how to handle a stressful situation in a non-stressful environment enabled me to really learn the skills needed when I find myself with a flat and on my own.

If you are a novice cyclist and aren't fortunate enough to have fanatical cycling friends, check this video out. It offers step by steps instructions on how to change a flat, and gives you a list of everything that you will need. And remember, keep calm and stay zen on the bike trail!

Planet Bike - How to change a flat

Friday, June 20, 2014

Safety first -- The "Door Zone" is real

The other day I learned a valuable lesson. The door zone is real. Like all sports, cycling has a certain amount of danger to it. You have to be aware of your surroundings at all times, because, in the words of my cycling guru and mentor in photojournalism and snarkiness, "Everything is trying to kill you."

One of my first lessons in safety I had was about the "Door Zone", the length of a car door when it's open. When in a car, you think nothing of it to swoosh open the door without looking while exiting the vehicle. But when you're on a bicycle, encountering a motorist who doesn't look before opening can turn into a serious accident.

I learned about this danger the hard way. A couple of days ago on my commute into work, I rode too far into the door t zone... and... well... hit a door. Thankfully not hard and thankfully not injured. Despite it's lack of seriousness, the incident reminded me that as a cyclist, I must be aware of everything that's around me. Because it's all trying to kill me.

There are lots of things you can do to prevent riding into a door, or as all the hip cyclist call it, "getting doored". Giving a good 4 feet between you and the car when possible, and look ahead for cars parking or motorists loading up and preparing to leave. Of course, things on a bike move pretty fast sometimes, so the good people of Bike East Bay have put together some great tips on how to get to your destination in one piece and without getting doored.

Avoid the "Door Zone" - Bike East Bay

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Biking in Bishop

As I mentioned in my last post, one of my all time favorite places to visit is Bishop. The quaint town is at the base of the Eastern Sierra, and Mt. Whitney, Mammoth Lakes, John Muir Wilderness, the PCT and Yosemite are all within a couple hours of each other. You can see everything the town has to offer in 9 miles. And all though it is a small town, the international travelers coming through to see the natural beauties of California always make for great conversation, providing a sense of adventure and newness in the air on a daily basis.

The best part of this particular visit was taking my bike, Margarita. I know I talked about how great it was overcoming the challenge of riding my bike up and down the June Lake Loop, but just riding and enjoying the surroundings that can only be experienced while riding a bike was just as rewarding. Being on a bike is sort of like being apart of the road around  you. You aren't trapped inside of the car, only being able to look out the window at what is around you. Being on a bicycle makes you apart of the ride.

                                                        Bishop, Ca bike trail. June 2014

                                                     E. Line Drive, Bishop, Ca. June 2014

In Antioch, the traffic seems to be non-stop, and everyone seems to be in a hurry. Constantly on the go and rushing from place to place. I say this because I'm constantly aware of being pushed out of the bike lane, or just disregarded by motorists in general. In Bishop, I felt no fear going on and off of trails. Cycling in traffic, even on the 395 left me feeling adventurous, not afraid. Everyone, be it in car, on bicycle, or on foot would smile, wave and even let out an "How are ya doin'" or "Good morning!". It could just be that I am a small town girl at heart that hasn't been able to find her place in the Bay Area or it's surrounding suburbs, but I think that if everyone stopped and really took in their surroundings, they would see how beautiful this area actually is and be a little less douchey. Oh, and there would probably be a lot less trash too.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Eastern Sierra adventure

One thing that I was so excited to do with Margarita was take her with me on one of my bi-annual Eastern Sierra vacations. My parents live in Bishop, Ca, one of my favorite places in the world that I commonly refer to as "paradise". However, Paradise is kinda tricky to get to if you are using alternative modes of transportation. I've taken all kinds of public transit to the Eastern Sierra, but never with my bike. Understandably I was nervous to bring Margarita on Amtrak this summer, and being a novice bicyclist, the thought of taking my bike apart for travel on the train/bus had my anxiety on high. Thankfully, Amtrak was super bike friendly and I didn't have to put my bike into a box. Two train cars on the California Capital Corridor were for bike storage, and even my bus had a system for transporting bicycles. The Amtrak staff were incredibly helpful too. The gentlemen who checked my ticket walked with me to make sure my bike was secure, gave me security tips, and offered literature on how to travel with my bike on other Amtrak lines. My first experience traveling with my bike was easier than I had imagined.

Not only was the trip to Bishop fantastic, the people are amazingly nice in the Eastern Sierra too. It's 15 minutes away from the John Muir Wilderness, and Yosemite is our neighbor. Now I can add to my long list of amazing Eastern Sierra feature's -- It's extremely bike friendly. There are cyclists everywhere. Young, old, expert, and novice. The bike lanes are prominent and drivers actually wave and smile while sharing the road, instead of giving you the bird like in the East Bay. Not once have I been forced off the right turn lane.


The only thing that has been difficult has been riding the bike itself. The elevation in the Eastern Sierra is (obviously) higher than what I'm used to in Antioch, and I was quickly out of breath going up hills at one of my favorite near by towns, June Lake. I was tempted to hop off my bike and walk when my huffing and puffing got intense, but the only thing more embarrassing than wheezing up a hill on a bike is walking up it. So I pounded some puffs off my inhaler and pressed on to complete a short ride around June Lake.
Population: 615  Elevation: 7,650

June Lake, before the huffing and puffing.
What I learned from this ride in the Eastern Sierra, is a lesson I've had before. Even when you are exhausted, when you think you have pushed your body and mind to the limit, none of the temporary feelings of discomfort are going to compare to the feeling of failure felt after giving up. There have been plenty of times when I have reasoned giving up because "something hurt", "something pinched", "it's too hot", "I'm really sleepy", "I'm on a time crunch". The list goes on and on. In reality I'm giving myself a way out. I'm limiting myself. And although I never think that I'm selling myself short at the time, the inevitable feeling of guilt that I get at night when I reflect on my day and see that I didn't believe I was strong enough mentally or physically to complete a goal is one of the worse feelings in the world. Nothing compares to letting yourself down.
It was that impending thought of failure that pushed me to complete my June Lake ride. Pushing through my discomfort and accomplishing my small goal felt great. Despite being short of breath, sweaty, tired, and sunburned, I was on top of the world. I stayed on Margarita over two, what were for me, monster hills. None of my physical discomforts could over shadow my "I DID IT!" feelings of success.
So, my challenge to myself, and to whoever may read this blog, is pretty simple. Just to not give up. To persevere, and push yourself a little farther every day. Have an adventure! Don't listen to the nay sayers, or surround yourself with other people who give themselves "outs". I'm all in on this new bike life adventure. And whatever adventure you are on, I hope you are all in on it too.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Getting a bike... Getting started.

Nothing will bring you back to your childhood like riding a bike. I was told when I started my "lifestyle change" that one of the best things about riding a bike as an adult is that you instantly feel like a kid again. And it's true. It's great feeling that familiar freedom of my adolescence while going to and from my responsibilities of adulthood.

I've thought about transitioning from my gas guzzling 1989 Oldsmobile Royal to a bike for almost two years now. From professors, mentors, friends and customers, the allure of sustainable transportation, the mental strength cycling brings, and the happy demeanor (almost) every cyclist seems to have, finally pulled me in when an epic leak found in my Olds engine caused my patience for car repairs to run dry... Not to mention my wallet. After helping with the Bike to Work refreshment station at a local coffee shop I work at, I decided to take the plunge. I went out to Antioch's local bike shop Schwinn City, and picked out Margarita, a 700 C Schwinn white and green road bike. She's totally awesome.

I'm sure there where will be days when my new found love of bike commuting, bike riding, and just about anything that has to do with bikes will be tested. Commuting in the rain? Not looking forward to it. Hot hot heat? Sweating your butt off in 100 degree weather isn't the cutest look. But, I'm ready to take on these challenges, learn new lessons, have new experiences, and seeing how far I can go on my bike.

Everything, the good, bad and ugly, the triumphant experiences and the no doubt embarrassing ones, will all be chronicled here.