I Rode an E-Bike and Fell in Love

The other day I was walking around Capitol Hill taking photos with my new-to-me DSLR camera and happened upon the following scene outside the Link Light Rail Station.

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Now, a line of free floating bike share bikes outside of a transit station isn’t something new in Seattle. In fact, since Spin, Ofo, and LimeBike came to town, there are seemingly hundreds of colorful bikes around town. This lineup was different – there were e-bikes.

I had heard rumors about both Lime and Spin releasing electric bikes into their fleets, but here they were! Without fanfare or a Twitter marketing promotion, the bikes had been released into the wild! And for $1 I could ride one! (Technically, it’s $1 to unlock, and then $1 every 10 minutes.)

And oh.my.god. I haven’t smiled like that on a bicycle in years. Within the first pedal stroke I could feel the difference. It wasn’t huge, but it was just enough juice to boost my start and get me up to speed pretty quickly.

Since that first day, I’ve ridden the Lime e-bikes two more times, both for my commute. And overall, I am very impressed. Here is my take on the Good, the Bad, and some general thoughts.

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The Good

These bikes are easy to ride. They use the same step-through, upright geometry that the other bike share bikes use. They’ve also got a front basket and cell phone holder installed, which make carrying things a breeze. Because of the battery in the back, they are quite a bit heavier than the non-electric bikes, but the weight didn’t seem to impact the handling at all.

(True confession- I normally ride a stupidly heavy Surly Straggler that has fenders and two racks, so I might not be the best judge of bike weight.)

There are no gears to shift. I have no idea what sort of technical magic they have in those bikes, but it’s a one gear system. Super simple.

You still have to pedal. The bikes are pedal assist e-bikes, which means you can’t just throttle out the power. This makes me feel like I’m still getting in some physical activity, it just makes those hills that I normally dread much more approachable.

The Bad

 They’re a bit pricey. At $1 to unlock, and then $1 for each subsequent ten minutes, the costs add up fast. This is especially true if you plan to use the bikes for commuting and taking into account traffic. Similar to the Car2Go model where you pay by the minute, I felt like I needed to ride to my destination as fast as I could to avoid more charges.

They’re a bit sluggish on flats. This isn’t a huge problem, as let’s be honest, how many flat roads do we have around Seattle? Because the electric assist tops out at 14 miles per hour, riding these on flat ground makes them feel a bit slow and heavy.

Recharging is a manual and clunky process. The batteries in the bikes are replaceable and Lime has their fleet operations continually going out to the e-bikes to replace and recharge batteries that need it. This is cool, however, it means that as a user, the bike you found on the map and planned to use might have a low battery. Or, it might get picked up by the Operations Team while you’re on your way to go use it. (True story, I watched this happened and talked to the technician who picked up the bike I was about to ride.)

General Thoughts

I didn’t want to like e-bikes, but I think I might be a convert. I loved the upright position but still having power to get up hills. It was a convenient alternative to taking the bus (or my own bike.) And it was FUN.

I genuinely think that bike share e-bikes could dramatically impact the biking landscape in Seattle. Just as free floating bike share has made riding a bike in Seattle accessible to more people, these e-bikes will continue to expand the market.

Now, someone who is curious about an e-bike can ride one for less than the cost of a latte. If they have anything like my positive first experience, I could easily see this being a boom for the e-bike world.

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Stoked Spoke Adventure Series

Tomorrow is the January edition of the 4th Annual Stoked Spoke Adventure Series, hosted by Swift Industries. For the 3rd year in a row, I’ll be presenting on one of my favorite routes from the previous year.

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This year I’ll be talking about the bikepacking route I did in Montana. If you want a sneak peak of what I’ll be sharing, take a look at my trip write up

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I’m eternally grateful to Jason and Martina from Swift for hosting this series, which has been instrumental in getting me out on my bike for rad adventures and in this blog. It was at Stoked Spoke that I first realized I like telling stories about my bike adventures and that people are interested in hearing about them.

Hope to see you all out at the Rhino Room tomorrow at 7pm!

Biking While Fat – Four Things I Wish I Had Known When I Started Riding

As a fat woman that rides a bike who is vocal about my adventures, body acceptance and good times on a bicycle, I’m often asked for advice. From picking a bike to my favorite routes to dealing with chub-rub, I get asked all sorts of things. And turns out, I know things!

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So I've decided to share it with all of you. Bike advice for fellow fatties. Chubby people. Plus size cyclists.

Whatever you want to call yourself, there are some specific things to keep in mind when it comes to two-wheeled adventure, including picking a bike, figuring out what clothes to wear, and finding your people.

So, without further ado, Things I Wish I had Known When I Started Riding Bikes.

p.s. These are helpful tips for anyone, if you’re fat or not. 

p.p.s. I don’t ride to lose weight. Full stop. I ride for fun, transportation, adventure, and exercise. So if you’re reading this looking for advice on how to lose weight by riding a bike, I can’t help you. In fact, if you go on a ride with me, I will likely make sure you’re well fed and in no danger of bonking mid-ride. That means stopping for snacks, listening to our bodies, and checking in. Also eating ice cream.

1. Find a bike that works for you.

Ask yourself the following questions (before you go to the bike shop):

What kind of riding do you plan on doing?

  • Commuting to from/work
  • Carrying groceries or running other errands
  • Riding for exercise every now and again
  • Going on adventures, such as touring or camping
  • Racing/serious fitness riding

Sure there are bikes that could in theory do all of the above, but you’ll be a lot happier with a purpose-built bike.

What surfaces do you plan on riding?

  • Road only
  • Mixed road, trail, gravel
  • Anything and everything!

Does bike material matter to you?

Modern bikes are primarily made out of three materials – steel, aluminum, and carbon (some really expensive bikes are made out of titanium too.)

Most entry-level bikes are aluminum, but I would caution heavier riders to do their research and perhaps look into steel, as they tend to have higher weight limits. This especially becomes a factor if you plan on carrying cargo.

If you are shy about how much you weigh, do this research before you go to the bike shop. Most manufacturers have their weight limits listed online, and in my experience, many bike shop employees are not experienced at working with bigger people and won’t know the weight limits for the bikes.

Bike weight limit diagram from Specialized's Manual

Bike weight limit diagram from Specialized's Manual

Other things to think about when choosing a bike:

Wheel Strength – All wheels are created equally, right? I thought so too and for a long time, couldn’t figure out why I kept breaking spokes on my road bike. Finally, a bike mechanic that I trust dearly told me that I needed stronger wheels for the type of riding and stress I was putting my bike under. Talk to an experienced wheel building (oh hey Sugar Wheel Works) or your at your local shop about what kind of wheels you need to support your weight.

Tire width – Take a look at the tires on the bike you plan on buying. The wider the tire, the more cushion-y the ride will be (in most cases.) Wider tires also give you more flexibility to run them at lower pressures, without risking a pinch flat. As a heavier rider, I urge you to invest in a good pump for your house and check your tires before every ride. Fill your tires to the recommended PSI on the tire and you’ll run less risk of flatting out.

E-bike? - A great option if you want to get on a bike, but maybe have a longer commute in mind. 

REI has a really good, in-depth article about the different types of bikes, materials, wheel sizes, handle-bar styles, and other technical mumbo-jumbo that I didn’t cover.

p.s. Don’t forget that you can change things on your bike after you buy it, such as the saddle, pedals, handle bars, etc. A little change can make a big difference in comfort!

TLDR: Figure out what kind of riding you want to do, research before you go into a bike store, and try out lots of bikes before you buy.

2. Wear clothes that make you feel good!

When I first started riding, I thought to be taken seriously I needed to wear the right clothes including spandex, clip in shoes, and the tiny little bike hats. Not only did that get expensive fast, but it became an exercise in frustration as I was constantly searching for “bike clothing” in my size.  

(To be fully transparent, I usually wear between a 16-18 dress size, size 18 jeans, and an XL in women’s tops. I can squeeze into an XXL yoga pant from Target or Old Navy, but most standard size athletic brands are off the table.)

Now that I’ve logged a few thousand more miles, I’ve come to realize that I can ride my bike in anything, but the key factor is comfort. If I don’t feel confident and comfortable, I’m not going to want to ride no matter the distance.

This is not to say that bike clothes don’t work for bigger people. Many people swear by them for the sports performance factor, and I will often wear cycling bibs for my longer rides as I love the built in chamois. But for everyday riding, I stick to wool layers in the winter, dresses and leggings in the spring/fall, and tank tops in the summer. My absolute saving grace has been a rain cape– it keeps me dry but not too sweaty, and it fits no matter what size I am!

Some athletic brands are getting better about expanded size ranges, and both times I've asked bike specific lines about XXL, they've sent me product samples to try. Great work Redfrog Athletics and Wild Rye for working on this! (Any other brands looking for people to test out your gear, I'm here!! I'll try it and tell you honest reviews!)

So wear what makes you feel good. End of story.

3.  Find your people. They are out there.

No matter what kind of riding you want to do, there is somebody else who is looking for it too or who is already doing it. From organized group rides at your local bicycle club to training rides to get in shape for a charity ride to Kidical Mass rides, there are literally cycling groups for every single interest out there.

Recommended places to start include MeetUp.com, your local bike club, and Facebook. And while it might be intimidating to go for your first ride, remember that we all started somewhere.

Wheel Women Australia have been riding together since 2012!

Wheel Women Australia have been riding together since 2012!

4.  You don’t owe anybody anything

As a larger bodied person riding a bicycle, you might find yourself subject to stares and comments from people on the street. If your life is anything like mine, this is nothing outside the normal.

Just remember that you don’t owe them a response, you don’t owe them acknowledgment, you do not owe them anything.

You have every right to enjoy your time on your bicycle and they can just mind their own damn business.

So, there you have it. What else would you add to this list?

2017 Year in Review

Dear Friends, Family, and Internet Strangers who Read This,

2017 is rapidly ending, and with it, one of the best years of my life. You’ve likely seen many of these highlights on social media, however, it’s been fun as the year comes to a close to reflect on the year that was, and look forward to 2018.


Travels Near and Far

2017 brought a lot of travel my way, including both work and personal. Favorite trips included:

  • Hong Kong
  • Stockholm
  • Paris
  • Bend, Oregon
  • Dalles, Oregon
  • New York City
  • Tampa Bay, Florida
  • Glacier National Park
  • Olympic National Park

The skyline over Hong Kong, night market in Hong Kong, Elwah River Valley, Maryhill Loops Road, and Dalles, Oregon trip. Scroll right for all photos.


Accomplishments

2017 also brought a number of significant personal and professional accomplishments. While settling more into my role of Global Environmental Manager at Expeditors, I was instrumental in helping my company win an award as an Inbound Logistics 2017 Green Supply Chain Partner. Everyday at work brings new challenges as we work to measure and reduce our environmental impact.

The women's bike race I help put on every summer had a record number of racers and was more successful than ever, and we just went through a rebranding process. Most fun, two of the bike adventures I went on were written up in Adventure Cycling!

Gals Ride the Dalles - My Birthday Ride in the Dalles, Oregon 

Detour the Divide - Gravel Grinding Bikepacking ride through Montana

Also, the With These Thighs project got a bunch of great press, took off on Instagram, and has had a bunch of success! Huge thank you to each of you who has embraced your body, bought stickers, told your friends about it, and most importantly, loved yourself for just who you are!


Personal Life

Most years, I haven't had much in the way of "personal life" stuff to write about. Sure, there's been a few dates here and there, but nothing that's noteworthy to tell the family/friends/internet about. But, this year I met a gem of a person and I'm pretty darn happy about it.

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We've been hanging out since July and make each other pretty happy. Turns out, relationships can be a really great thing when they're mutually supportive, loving, and healthy.

In 2017, I also got a therapist. About damn time.


I wish you all a happy, healthy, peaceful 2018. I hope whatever holidays you celebrate are joyful, that your discussions around the holiday table are productive (remember, climate change is real and its ok to talk about it), and may your New Year bring you everything you wish for!

 

 

 

 

Do I Even Like Riding a Bike Anymore?

I broke my foot in mid-August doing something really stupid and mundane. Starting to pedal, I jammed my foot onto my pedal, missed the platform and crunched the shit out my foot. Two cracked metatarsals, and nearly 4 months later, I'm still not back to my regular self. Apparently when you're over 30, bones take a long time to heal. 

This injury was a huge pain the butt bummer. I had to skip the Solar Eclipse Campout Bike Ride with Komorebi and Friends on Bikes . I went to NYC in a walking boot (which I promptly ditched for a CitiBike. Don't tell my doctor.) My foot is still a funky shape and shoes no longer fit the same, but I did buy Crocs! 

Thankfully, I am now healed enough to walk around without a limp (as long as it's not over a mile) and biking is no longer painful. This does mean I've taken nearly 4 months off my bike. Which feels like forever.

And now that I can get back on the bike, I haven't been quick to get back on. My first "long" ride was Cranskgiving last weekend, and it was 16 miles. Have I touched my bike since? Nope. Somehow, I went from a daily bike rider to an every-once-in-a-while rider.

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I feel like my bike is a friend that I've lost touch with, and am not sure how to start the conversation again. In the time that I've been off, the seasons changed and it's now cold outside.

Instead of riding in whatever I happen to be wearing (usually a dress), I'll need to actually think about my clothing and the functionality of it on a bike.

In this season of change and difficulty, I'm trying to be gentle on myself. Just because I don't ride today or this week, doesn't mean I can't start again when the weather gets good. I started from zero a few years ago, and I can always start again.