I’ve been meaning to share a link to my friend Marley’s Bike Nicer Seattle campaign that she developed for the Connect Puget Sound: Big Ideas Festival. It’s an awesome concept in and of itself, but it’s also the perfect way to share the benefits I personally reap from riding with one of my favorite people. Marley embodies “bike nicer” and not everyone is as lucky as me and gets to spend time in person/in saddles with her and have that good nature rub off. Biking isn’t just about biking for me, it’s also about the wonderful people it’s brought into my life.
Not that I need a personal anecdote as an excuse to share Bike Nicer Seattle, but sadly, yesterday provided the perfect impetus.
Marley and I had a grand plan to ride my tandem together for Chilly Hilly on Sunday. She came by R+E Cycles’ Bike and Pike Expo on Saturday, where I was spending the day hanging out with a stack of my Urban Cycling books. I had already planned to ride my tandem to the event because it’s R+E’s brand, Rodriguez (scored on consignment from the shop!). Knowing Marley could come by for a practice run made the plan even better. Between taking expo goers on tours of the frame-building facilities downstairs, mechanics took the kidback cranks off and moved the pedals back down to the adult position so Marley didn’t have to contort to six-year-old height. The test ride was fun! I was a little nervous because I’m not used to anyone actually helping back there and therefore am not practiced at the constant communication required for tandem riding (“Shifting!” “Coasting!”).
But we mutually chickened out in a series of Sunday 6am text messages and rode our two Surly Stragglers instead.
And then the thing happened after having had a marvelous day filled with friends and talking to a lot of new people over the course of the day. I posted it to my Facebook wall and Instagram because those are great places to vent and/or whine and have friends commiserate. I am incredibly thin-skinned and easily discouraged and it helps me greatly to get support from my friends after the fact via social media. Even though it “worked” and I feel better, I share my experience here, too:
So Marley and I decided last minute not to ride the tandem today (we never got our costumes dialed in, we were a little scared about the high winds forecasted, and neither of us got a full night’s sleep). But Chilly Hilly was still a lot of fun!
…until I was waiting in line for the return ferry and three older guys in head-to-toe neon yellow made fun of me for my choice of footwear: “Ha ha ha, look at your shoes! So pro! You have the ‘best’ shoes of the day, ha ha!” Note: I had my rain jacket on so at this moment I did not look like a flight attendant (I like to travel with lots of snacks so I had a front basket full of cookies, pretzels, and beverages to share with anyone who was hungry…and offered to change seat assignments on return flights if necessary, because laughter is almost as important as snacks).
You know me, I think you should wear whatever you want to ride your bike, whether it’s a silly costume, a cycling kit, or what you were wearing already ( <- my personal favorite). I think EVERYONE should ride bikes. Because it’s SO FUN. I would never say anything to discourage anyone from riding bikes. There was nothing good natured about these guys, they just wanted to be assholes to me. I smiled at them and said I wear these shoes every day and find them great for biking.
What bothers me the most is the thought that maybe they harassed other people. What if those other people weren’t yet committed bicyclists and mean remarks by three assholes scare them off their bikes after today and steal from them the joy that bicycling brings. I wish I had shook off the sting of their words and said something about all getting along.
So I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, and wearing what I’m wearing, and next time (which probably won’t be too soon because most people aren’t assholes) I’ll be a little braver in my response.
I hate to lump people into two groups, but it’s hard not to notice striking differences in appearance at Chilly Hilly. The majority of people are in cycling-specific clothing and I feel for them when I see them in the ferry line hobbling around in what must be very uncomfortable shoes for walking. I don’t know much about the inner workings of Cascade Bicycle Club, but I am a volunteer ride leader and benefit from many programs the club offers. I have always assumed the “serious cyclists” who pay for most of the entries in the big rides like Chilly Hilly, STP, and RSVP generate the revenue that both puts on those rides and funds the things I think are the most important, like the Major Taylor Project and the educational programming that directly impacts me. So I’m certainly not going to be mean to those with deep Lycra pockets…though mostly because I’m not going to be mean to anyone!
Chilly Hilly isn’t a family-specific event, but it’s certainly family friendly. I rode it with one kid four years ago and this year I saw a few kids in trailers, on tandems, and on trailer bikes–and one superstar who pedaled his own 16-inch bike and retired to a trailer behind his dad’s bike when he couldn’t push on. For me, I’ll fully admit that since having discovered the relatively flat highway route to get to bike camping at Fay Bainbridge, I might never ride the hilly route with kids again. Maybe they’ll want to ride Chilly Hilly in the future and we’ll do it, but we are all primarily transportation cyclists and do things in two-mile increments, not 33-mile increments, so Chilly Hilly would be a very big deal for us.
Marley isn’t the only one with this big, yet simple, idea. A couple weeks ago, Surly Bikes shared this Don’t Be a Dick blog post. Surly is another organization I can’t claim to know much about. They seem to present a surly (duh) persona, but at the same time they’re also pretty lovable, as seen in Jules’s Our Own Two Wheels post. And they are one of the sponsors of the Women’s Bicycle Mechanic Scholarship program run by their parent company, QBP, that sends 16 women to UBI’s Professional Shop Repair and Operations Workshop (happening right now, this very second!)–including Kyla of Green River Cyclery and the Busted Bike Cafe whom I recently met and adore.
Just to add a little levity, since I don’t really know how to cope without the shield of humor (I should work on that, too, I guess), I feel I should share a dirty little secret: I was wearing hidden cycling gear. I was in cycling shorts from my team kit (yes, I have a team kit…though I sometimes accidentally call it a “costume” and I LOVE when people are surprised that I own a kit) and a couple times my skirt blew up an inch too high and the bright blue peeked out. I was embarrassed and joked that I looked “too pro”. Of all the phrases to use! It had never occurred to me to wear my kit to Chilly Hilly. I wear it to races (I race cyclocross a couple times a year) and during the two times I went on training rides. This is half because I don’t want to misrepresent my team, Recycled Cycles Racing, if I’m not riding seriously (like on a city bike with a basket full of cookies) and half because I consider it special and only for racing (and training, were I to do that). So I guess I can laughingly consider myself superior to the yellow bullies because Chilly Hilly just isn’t a big enough deal for me to “kit up”.
And hey, I did get a little more “serious” in the evening when I donned cleated shoes (but cyclocross ones that are easy to walk in, not the hobbly road bike ones I’ve never experienced) and took my cyclocross bike to our annual team meeting where I picked up my new kit. YAY NEW KIT! Of course I mostly chatted with my teammates who have kids about family biking gear, but bikes are bikes are bikes. And people are people are people.
p.s. I didn’t even share a clear photo of my shoes, nor describe them. It hardly seems important. But this is them:
I’m standing on my Surly Big Dummy’s FlightDeck before my recent trip to Portland.
I don’t know what brand they are. They’re from a long line of flats from the thrift store that fit comfortably and are close enough to black that I think they match everything (don’t worry, I outsourced all fashion information in the book). Oh, that’s another reason I was embarrassed about wearing my cycling shorts: they were my only non-thrifted item. Had it had been colder, I would have worn Vans or boots and socks, but that’s marginally less comfortable. And takes longer to get feet into when I’m late out the door and still have to go buy cookies.