Wilkeson to Carbon River Bikecamping

Bike camping at Ipsut Creek along the Carbon River inside of Mount Rainier has become something of an annual tradition in my life, first starting in 2015. The backcountry campground used to be a popular car camping destination, but after the road was washed out in 2006, it’s only been accessible to hikers and bikers willing to make the 10 mile roundtrip trek.

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In previous years, I’ve driven to the park, stopped at the ranger station, and parked near the gate, thereby limiting my riding to a (very) manageable five mile, slightly uphill ride. This year, however, I accepted an invitation for a trip that would start in Wilkeson, about 20 miles outside of the campground.

Before I get into the details of this trip, I think it would be helpful to give some background on this trip.

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I used to bikecamp all the time. A few years ago, it was normal for me to ride fully loaded into work on a Friday and be gone the whole weekend. Over the last year, however, due to a bunch of different factors, I simply have not been riding my bike that much.

I was invited to join a group of women riding in Montana this summer with Masi, Ortleib, Exped, Adventure Cycling, and Skratch Labs, so to prepare for that trip, I decided I should probably start riding again, with purpose. As part of the trip, we are all being given full bikepacking setups from Ortleib, a new Masi bike and new Exped sleeping mats and pillows!

 New (to me) bike and bike bags from Ortleib!

New (to me) bike and bike bags from Ortleib!

So back to the ride….

One of the other women on the trip also lives in Seattle and put out a call for a partner to join her on a trip last weekend. I decided this would be a great opportunity to test my new bags (the bike is being built) and a good training ride. Two birds with one stone!

When I was first sent the Ride with GPS route, I felt confident about my ability to complete the trip. Sure, the ENTIRE way there was uphill, but I quieted my fears by thinking about the gentle grade, my previous experiences, and the ride back to the car. 20 miles of sweet, sweet downhill.

Fast forward to Saturday, deep in the pain cave, regretting every decision I’ve ever made. This ride was hard. Really freaking hard.

Twenty miles is a long way to ride uphill. Thankfully, I made the last minute decision to ride a bike I bought for my boyfriend which has a triple. That means a granny gear.

I lived in that granny gear all day Saturday, and hoo boy, was it a challenge.

If you haven’t done this ride, I highly recommend it (at least the portion from the Ranger Station to camp.) It’s a beautifully graded, gravel trail through the most amazing old growth forests. At camp, there is ample space for everyone I’ve ever seen up there (be sure to register for your backcountry permit at the ranger station) and clean toilets.

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Some helpful tips:

There aren’t any fires allowed, so I recommend bringing another form of entertainment.

Bring your hiking shoes and turn it into a longer trip. From the Ipsut Creek Campground, there’s a beautiful 7ish mile hike to the Carbon River Glacier. This hike is NOT fun in biking shoes, so bring a spare pair.

Bring a water filter. The old water source that used to be right before you got to camp has been washed out, so now the potable water is up the trail a bit at the Ipsut Falls.

 

Life on No Wheels

Last night I locked up my bike outside my apartment building (in the back, in a kind of hidden spot.) I went out this morning to bring it inside and fuck me, both wheels were gone.

I know it's my fault for leaving this outside, but sometimes I just don't want to haul a 40lb bike up 3 flights of stairs. I guess I've learned my lesson now.

I hope the thief enjoys the new dynamo hub. I hope they LOVE the feedbag that a squirrel chewed through on Mt. Rainier. I hope they get lots of use out of the nearly worn-out front rotor and brand new back rotor. I hope they love those Gravel King tires.

I'm so sad about this. But I guess it's a good excuse to go tubeless.

 

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Cambium C19 Saddle Review

I never think about my saddle. I've been riding with the same Brooks B17s for 3 years and it's been fine. Long rides, camping, commuting- it's been fine. 

But now that I work at a bike shop, I get to test things. Shiny new things!

So last week I installed a Cambium All Weather C19 on my bike. And holy God I've never thought about my labia so much while riding bikes before in my life.

 

First, it's lonnnnnnnnng. When I get off my saddle at an intersection, my crotch and my belly both touch my bike. Weird. 

 

Second, it's lonnnnnnnnng. I went to get off at a bar tonight and my skirt got stuck and I fell. 

Cool. 

 

Third, the all weather coating. Sure, it's nice not to slide around, but oh man. Labia, clit, inner thigh city!  

Long story short, I can't wait to take this saddle off and put my normal saddle on.

 

P.s I'm dreading these last 5 miles home. 

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A Day in Chicago by Bike

Last weekend I traveled to Chicago to celebrate my nephew's 2nd birthday. Technically, I landed at O'Hare but spent most of the weekend in Great Lakes, Illinois (about 40 miles north of the city) where my sister lives. 

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Our weekend was full of toddler fun: the Betty Brin Children's Museum in Milwaukee, family swim time, rainbow cupcakes, and toddler music class. As has happened previously on trips to visit them, I reach my limit of suburb time after about 3 days. I need the energy, diversity, and craziness that a city brings. So on Saturday March 17th (yep, St. Patrick's Day), I took the train into Chicago for a day in the city.

The previous time I was in Chicago I explored the city by Divvy bike. This worked out pretty well, as Chicago has a good density of stations. Planning to do the same this time, I reached out to "Bike Twitter" for recommendations on must sees, eats, and dos in the Windy City. 

I was surprised by a message from Elsbeth Cool, the owner of Four Star Family Cyclery. She offered me one of her fleet bikes to ride for the day, a Tern Vektron.  She told me she was just off the blue train line in Logan Park, and being the transit savvy person I am, I figured "No problem. I'll just transfer and be there shortly!" 

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If only it was so easy. l spent the majority of the train ride trying to figure out how to transfer from the UP-N to the Blue L line, a feat which is apparently impossible. I asked 4 people on the train how to do it- none of them knew. Eventually I decided I would get off at the closest stop to Logan Park and make my way from there.

Getting off the train I was suddenly awash in a sea of St. Patrick's Day revelers. St. Patrick's Day in Chicago is a BIG deal. Oh shit. My sister was right - going to the city today was a big mistake and I'm going to have to deal with drunks all day. 

Quickly enough, however, the throngs caught their Ubers and Lyfts and were on their way to Wrigleyville or Downtown Chicago for the real party, and I was left to my own. Thankfully, in Chicago, the Transit App works incredibly well and has train, bus, bike, and carshare integrated. I discovered that a Divvy station was less than a block away, which I could then ride to Logan Park!

I've been seriously spoiled by the free-floating bike share model in Seattle and forgot how annoying it is to redock at a specific station every 30 minutes. I slowly and deliberately made my way to Logan Park, with the help of Google Maps. (Hat tip- the bike directions on Google are usually pretty spot on!) I found another Divvy station a few blocks from Elsbeth's house, dropped the bike, and walked to her place.

She opened Four Star Family Cyclery out of her basement last summer and business has been humming along steadily ever since! She works to get families on bikes that a practical alternative to traveling by car, which usually means electric cargo and family bikes! 

I was loaned a Tern Vektron for the day, which is a super cool folding electric bike. While Chicago is super flat compared to Seattle, having the electric assist meant I could get further and explore more with less effort. Winning!

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I set off with the intention to explore a few different neighborhoods, including Wicker Park, Ukrainian Village, and Logan Square. I slowly made my way throughout the neighborhoods, stopping for photos, an occasional beer, and one really good baked potato at The Shelby. Seriously, if you're ever in Chicago, check out their baked potatoes. 

As far as bike lanes go and feeling safe on the road, Chicago wasn't the best. Many of the bike lanes on the major streets are solidly in the door zone (as with every other city), however, Elsbeth gave me a great tip to ride a block or two over from the main street and I would find quiet residential streets. She was 100% spot on and I spent most of my time on side streets. 

During my day, I stopped at many businesses, but two of them I want to briefly highlight.

The first is BFF Bikes, a neighborhood bike shop that I've followed on social media for years. They're a full service bike shop, but with a focus on women's specific apparel and bikes. When I rolled by on Saturday afternoon, they were in the middle of their 4th Anniversary Party with treats and a solid crew hanging out inside. I was warmly welcomed and had a great chat with some local riders and the owner. If you're in Chicago, I'd encourage you to swing by their shop.

BFF Bikes

The second business is a bookstore called "Women and Children First." I first visited this shop last year on my visit and fell in love. Unabashedly feminist and political, this local bookstore is a gem. With tables dedicated to trans* literature, highlights by authors of color and a welcoming, positive vibe, I think I could spend all day in here. (My undergrad degree is in Women Studies after all. This is my feminist dream come true!)  I browsed for a while and eventually picked up "Tell Me More" by Kelly Corrigan, a mug, and a Black Lives Matter button.

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From there, I rode back to Elsbeth's place, dropped off the bike, and was on my way back to the train. I think in total I rode somwhere between 15 and 20 miles, but I'm not really sure. The ease of the bike I was loaned along with the flat, grid streets of Chicago made it easy to just keep going. 

I can't wait to go back, hopefully this time with my sister and nephew riding alongside me!

In Celebration of Women on Bikes

Today is March 8, International Women's Day. Scrolling through my social media feeds, I've been overwhelmed by posts celebrating women from all walks of life: girls fighting the odds to go to school in war zones, a huge list of women who have won the Nobel Prize and their accomplishments, and an acknowledgement from the New York Times of all the women that didn't get proper honor at the end of their lives. 

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In the spirit of celebrating women in our lives, this post is all about women on bikes who are changing the world. This list is totally subjective and is colored by my outlook on the "bike world." I know I left people off and might have a second edition soon. 

I encourage you to support these businesses, join their rides, and help promote their causes. Together, we will help reach gender equality in our day.

Leah Benson - Owner of Gladys Bikes in Portland

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 Leah is the brains behind the With These Thighs movement. She runs Gladys Bikes in northeast Portland, which has an innovative saddle library, and is a beacon of light for bike shops. Check out this article from Bicycling for more from Leah, and go visit her when you're in Portland!

Anna Brones - Author, Creator, Cook, Advocate

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I met Anna a few summers ago while on the Komorebi Olympic Adventure Route Trip. She graciously planned and brought all of the food for a trip of 7 women (and it was delicious!) She is a prolific author, penning works including "Hello, Bicycle", "Best Served Wild" and "The Culinary Cyclist." Check out her website for all of the projects she's currently working on. 

Kathleen Emry - Owner of Free Range Cycles in Seattle

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Whenever I meet a small person who is looking for a good quality bike, I direct them to Kathleen at Free Range Cycles. Her shop consistently stocks small bicycles, which for anybody outside of the average size range knows, can be a challenge to find. She's also a badass explorer and adventurer, last year riding the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

Madi Carlson - Family Biker Extrodianaire

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Madi has been an inspiration to me since I started riding bikes as an adult. She is the mom of two boys and proudly lives a car-free lifestyle, with frequent updates on Instagram and Facebook of their daily adventures. She wrote "Urban Cycling", a go-to book for all things bikes and currently contributes to Portland Bike Blog for their Family Biking column. 

Jess Cutler - Founder of Northwest Women's Cyclocross Project

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Jess is a lawyer, advocate, champion, and former bike racer. She works for Washington Bike Law and in her spare time runs the Northwest Women's Cyclocross Project, a development team for young cyclocross racers. The project seeks to assist talented female junior and U23 cyclocross racers make the transition from local success to national and international competition. Jess is an inspiration to me to continue to do good work and get more people out on bikes. 

Monica Gallagher - Founder of Menstrual Monday (now Moxie Monday)

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Monica will probably be super embarrassed to be put out to the world like this, but she deserves all the recognition in the world. Monica founded Menstrual Monday (now called Moxie Monday) over 8 years ago, as a monthly women's social bike ride. She is also the brains behind Girls of Summer, an annual women/trans/femme alleycat race in Seattle. Last year, the race had over 140 participants.  Monica also rode the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route from Canada to New Mexico last summer- SOLO. Seriously, check her out and get inspired: https://www.facebook.com/moxiemonday