Can’t we all just get along?

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.

23 thoughts on “Can’t we all just get along?

  1. Awwww, Madi, I love your shoes! Those dudes were jerks. And if it makes you feel better, I rode Chilly Hilly a couple years ago in regular-people boots and got many compliments from other riders on them. Those guys were definitely a minority, and any newboe riders would likely have gotten 10x more encouragement on that ride than negativity.

    • Just goes to show how easy it is to forget we’re all people from inside a car :(
      Actually, I think it’s easier to keep my cool as a parent of young kids. Definitely when they’re with me and watching, but it has carried over to even when they’re not with me which is nice.

  2. “These are actually special biking shoes that all the pros from Scandanavia use. You’re probably not familiar with them. You should look them up! I forget how it’s spelled; something like U-J-E-R-K or something. “

  3. I’ve always considered anyone wearing a costumes or riding a non-conventional bike to be in the “veteran” category of those who are comfortable enough in their skills already…wheras I saw more than a few folkes with a big soggy dirt line up their neon-clad back from their fancy-schmancy fenderless road bikes yesterday.

    • What a wonderful way to look at it! And hee hee, Marley wondered aloud why some of the fast riders we saw wouldn’t have put their fenders back on for the day’s weather. I’m not sure she believed me when I told her they most likely didn’t have or want fenders.

  4. My response would’ve been, “like hi-viz is so PRO. Bit of the pot calling the kettle black eh?” Then I would’ve taken their picture at that precise Fred-ly moment to capture their crestfallen expressions, rode home with a big smile, posted it to my blog, insta, fb and my all my bike buddies’ blogs with the subtitle, “Rude Freds Get Their Comeuppence!”

    I’ve been in enough unfortunate situations where whipping out the phone instantly shuts (most) people up.

  5. Clearly it’s not your footwear that’s at fault here..but those insecure freds who fail to see any other way to enjoy life on a bike but there own.

    I got tutted at and suffered a firm shake of the head, by a lycra clad weekend warrior on Saturday, for the horrendous crime of passing through a gate a little too slowly, with kids and cargo bikes.
    Console your self with how many you have inspired other within the cycling community and beyond. Pumps or not you rule !

    • Thanks and yeah, you’re right. I imagine they would have given me firm head shakes had I been in their way on the course, so thank goodness we were off our bikes in the ferry line.

  6. Amen on wearing “regular” shoes to ride. I used lipless pedals for a little over a year. I HATED having to leave a pair of shoes at work or carry a pair of shoes around with me. And i had *comfortable* “bike shoes.” I have two rules now – (1) set up my bike so I can wear whatever “regular” clothes I need to when I get where I’m going and (2) don’t mock anyone else for their choice of outfit – it’s their life and not mine. Thanks for being a good example for both rules!

    • Wonderful rules! I’m even more committed to stick to the second one now. Not sure about the first one–I feel extremely fancy and special in my bike shoes since I rarely wear them. Don’t laugh, but I might just wear them for errand running tomorrow now that I’m thinking about them!

  7. I often go on spandex-y rides all kitted up. I also do a lot of rides on my tennis shoes and jeans and, yes, a leg strap. It’s funny, the roadies very rarely wave when I’m in my sweats. :-)

  8. Pingback: Bike News Roundup: The world’s biggest city has few bike lanes, yet people bike a lot anyway | Seattle Bike Blog

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