What a winter! The weather has presented more challenges than usual. So far the extreme cold and bad road conditions have not stopped my riding except the day of a big snowfall. With fresh deep snow, my studded tires don't really make any difference. On Saturday the 14th of January I really should have just walked to my job in Burlington. I ended up pushing my bike most of the way from Winooski to Burlington and back, but I did catch a break on The Riverside Avenue bike path. I was able to follow the sidewalk plow up the hill until he reached Intervale Road. Then he crossed the street to head back down Riverside and I had to walk again.
In November, I had a meeting with Mary Catherine, Education and Volunteer Manager at Local Motion to discuss a bike safety program for Driver Education students. During our meeting, she also showed me a helmet that folds up, I was immediately interested so she gave me one to try out. When I told one of my co-works about it, she was suspicious. So as any good 21st century person with access to a computer does, she did some research and found out that the specific helmet Mary Catherine lent me is French so must conform to EU safety standards. Mary Catherine also mentioned to me in a subsequent conversation that all helmets sold in the United States must also meet American safety standards.
One of Vermont’s well-known characteristics is its rural nature. A lot of us Vermonters don’t live in the City or in a downtown. Our homes are sometimes 10+ miles from a grocery store and on dirt roads, so it feels like our only option is to take the car. The good news is that things are changing so your commutes are more fun, less expensive, and healthier. Although bikes have been an excellent transportation option for generations, many people need something more accessible...something that takes less effort and goes faster than a conventional bike. That’s where e-bikes come into the picture. But not just any e-bike; one that can handle dirt, snow, mud, and pavement.
Because there is no enforcement of bike laws, we are forced to create our own rules. I used to think of us as knights errant, as warriors with a personal code of conduct, but the people in cars are the ones encased in steel, not bike riders. We need to be flexible. Honor is not as important as survival.
Tools are designed and created to make life better in one way or another. Sure, you can build a shed with a screwdriver, but a power drill will get the job done better and faster. The e-bike is just that--a tool designed to help us get from home to work, the grocery store, school, and back home with less sweat and at a faster pace. Cargo e-bikes can be an alternative to a car when you have kids and a few grocery bags to transport. Riding an e-bike is a ton of fun, too.
I use a checklists to negotiate my daily life. Most people can keep stuff in their car, and take it with them wherever they go regardless of weight, shape and necessity. However, on a bicycle all these things should be considered or you're in for an uncomfortable ride. I pack my necessary supplies for the day every morning before I leave the house. The following is for fall and summer fun rides. As the weather gets colder, my riding becomes more utilitarian, although I can usually get in a few fun rides in November and early December. Once the snow flies and the weather is consistently cold, my riding become strictly utilitarian until spring.
On September 30th I participated in the Fall Fundo - Old Spokes Home fundraising ride. There were three possible distance participants could choose from - a 10 mile ride, 30 mile ride or 60 mile ride. I originally opted for the 30 mile ride but then at the last minute decided on the 60 mile ride instead. I was inspired by a friend who told me she did the ride last year and that the 60 mile route was beautiful. Also, recently, I have been doing some long road bike rides, including my first century, so I thought I could finish the 60 mile course.
Last month, I rode my bike from Winooski to the Brownell Library in Essex Junction. Between Suzie Wilson Road and West Street Extension, Route 15 is divided into two lanes and the right lane must turn right. That means that if I want to go straight I have to get into the left lane. Bikes in the middle of the road make drivers nervous and angry, even if that is the place they should legally be..
I do a fun ride every Sunday, a ride that allows me a temporary escape from my day-to-day life but also a ride that takes place in the context of the rest of my life. I always feel a sense of escape when I'm on my bike, but I also bring along my physical ailments, anxieties and preoccupations. My spiritual practice is to focus on the present and while I'm not very good at it, I do make an effort. When riding there is always a lot going on in the present. I can be appreciating the brilliance of Queen Anne's Lace and Chicory by the side of the road, anticipating the next hill, worrying about a chronic physical condition and feeling grateful that my legs are strong, all at the same time. Riding is a complex activity.
It's too hot. I'll arrive at work all sweaty. It's too cold. I have errands to run after work and need the car. It might rain. I'm running late as it is. I'm too tired. If it weren't for that hill, I'd bike. It's too windy.