For the past two years I have moved throughout the world on my bike without ever stepping behind the steering wheel. I was never really a big fan of driving. Even as a 16 year old in the car oriented suburbs of my adolescence I was reluctant to practice driving and I took my drivers test late. I actually failed the first time, I was so nervous and totally turned right on red, and of course there was an explicit sign forbidding such behavior. It was an automatic failure. Then a week or so later I came back to the take the driving test again and my learner’s permit was expired. I should’ve taken the hint from the Universe that driving was not for me. Eventually I got a car and assimilated to the driving lifestyle, but it never felt very comfortable. I was always on edge, afraid to go to fast and I totally avoided highways whenever possible.
When I moved out to Seattle in 2009, I had already started biking most everywhere I went. I kept my car around for the occasional road trip or adventure outside of the city. By 2010 the only time I drove my car was to attend my herbalism apprenticeship on Whidbey Island. I didn’t like driving my car there either. And since I only took the car out once a month, the stupid battery died on me all the time. I found that all the healing and restorative work I did harvesting plants on my teacher’s farm was moot when I had to merge on to I-5 south. The itch to sell my car was intensifying.
Soon I felt ready to let the car go, so I sold it to my housemate with permission to use the car if I ever needed it. (I converted my housemate to the bus/bike/walk lifestyle shortly after…) I started researching all these other options, like how to bike all the way to Whidbey and in colder weather how to make the bus/ bike combo work for me. I found an affordable place to stay on the island turning my herbalism studies into a once a month mini-retreat on an island, which cost way less than the car insurance and offered a lot more peace of mind. And so the last time I needed the car was two years ago. I had a class on the Island and show to perform that same evening. It was an uneventful drive. I had no idea that would be my last time time driving. But I am certainly thankful that it was.
There is nothing I miss about having a car. I do not miss car insurance, gas, parking tickets or the ridiculous high cost of fixing up those loud, stinky machines. Now car ownership seems sillier than ever with car sharing services like zip car and car2go all over the city. I actually have a Car2go membership, but have been avoiding using it because I don’t want to break my…”I haven’t driven in years streak.” Yeah, it is a bit of an ego thing at this point. But mostly it is because when push comes to shove, I’d rather pedal up a hill than drive up it.
My time on my bike is precious. I see it as time to connect with my body, my breath and the world that surrounds me. Instead of driving far to seek out “Nature” I realize I am very much the manifestation of nature and to seek it out I only have to open my eyes. I have an eye for the wildness that creeps into our urban life. I love the small weeds resilient enough to grow through small cracks in cement. When I need a dose of adventure I hope on my bike and pedal to a park, to a ferry or to someplace where the trees grow tall. If I need to get far, I throw my bike on the bus and go wherever I need to go.
I think if we all drive a little bit less, we can live a lot more!
Along with many other Seattle folks, I’ve been enjoying the commute challenge through Cascade Bike Club. It is interesting what I am learning through this experience. I also have the unique lens of a bicycle ambassador, where I get to interact with many of the people participating in the commute challenge at various Energizer Stations around the city. Perhaps you chatted with me at Beacon Hill, UW or by the Sculpture Park… I wanted to share with you some of my observations and thoughts.
As a bike ambassador I have had the chance to ask a lot of people about biking to work in celebration of bike month. For awhile I was asking people “Do you bike to work?” This turned out to be not the most productive conversation starter. If you bike to work you might just say “Yes.” But if you don’t bike to work there wasn’t much room to expand the conversation about bike riding. Several people also reminded me that not everyone works. Some people are unemployed, stay at home parents or retired. I have become more aware of is how the focus on commuting, while very important, leaves out a particular populations of bike riders.
Since I am logging specifically work miles, I’ve started to pay attention to when I am riding for work, when I am riding for fun and when I am running an errand. Something about this struck me. Biking errands, sounds kinda like work to me. It is unpaid, but it needs to get done. Someone needs to pick up groceries or drop packages off at the Post office. This kind of work is often called invisible labor. It is often these kind of chores that can easily be done on a bike, but do take time and often require hauling stuff. As Elly Blue explains in this column in this great article:
If you only need to go to work and come home again, with little to carry and no stops along the way, then riding fast on fast roads is fine — maybe even a welcome release from the stresses of the day. But whether you’re male or female, when you add a kid or two and a stop for groceries and the need to arrive at the other end smelling okay, you’d better believe you’re going to take a mellower route if there is one, and the car if there isn’t.
How can we offer more incentives to bike everywhere? As we start to see bikes shift from a niche, recreational market to an everyday means of getting around we need to encourage biking anywhere you go, not just to work. Bike month is not all about commuting, there are ways to get involved and support bike riding in many forms. It also includes biking to school, and just in case you haven’t seen this Bike to School Revolution video check it out. No matter how many miles you ride, where you ride or even why you ride, we have something to celebrate at the Ballard Street Party at the end of the month. See you on the bike path soon!
The hills might not be as steep as Mt. Rainer…but some days they feel that way.
Throughout Spring I have been writing about the Yamas & Niyamas, the guiding principles of yoga and how you can apply them to bike riding. I started in order with Ahimsa and Satya, but inspired by the heat and the hill climbs of this past weekend, Tapas seemed the perfect fit for today. You will be able to find the whole collection of Yamas and Niyamas in the second edition of Pedal, Stretch, Breathe, if you fund the project on Kickstarter.
“It’s about 1% physical and 99% spiritual”
~ Rider of the Fargo Street Hill Climb in LA
Hills. They are a cyclists tapas, or inner fire. I certainly know that the best way to warm up in Winter is find the hilliest route to work and charge up that hill until the warmth spreads to fingers and toes.
We have all faced that one really big hill. The one that scared us. It looked too steep to even exist, let alone ride a bike up it. I faced one of those hills right after getting a cast removed from my right hand. It was a lovely Summer’s day and a group of friends wanted to bike to Discovery Park, a forested park that has lovely beach by the Puget Sound. I was ready to get back into my regular riding routine and let go of my fear of falling again. When we arrived at the park we were at the top of a giant hill and wanted to get down by the water. I felt weak and out of shape, nervous to ride down such a large hill knowing that eventually I will have to bike back up it. But I longed to put my feet in the cold salt water, so I rode down anyway.
The tide was low, revealing a variety of hidden treasures and unique little creatures that live in the shallow tide pools. The sun was shining and I drank in all of the beauty of this wonderful place. After awhile it was time to leave the sand and make our way home. I had to make it. This hill was the process of reclaiming my power and letting go of my fear. I knew if I could make it up this hill I could keep riding.
The hill was relentless. My heart pounded, my legs burned and I wanted to stop. But I kept breathing and pedaling. I felt the heat in body, the sweat dripping down my brow. I was going to make it. I had to keep going, keep pedaling and breathing. I was determined to do it…to make it up and ride the rest of the way home.
Bike Ambassador Team
I will be participating in the Commute Challenge on the Cascade Bicycle Ambassador team. Brian is a our team leader and will motivate me to actually track my mileage, which in all my years of commuting I have never actually done. I usually care more about the flowers that I ride by than I care about how far I go. But I’ve always been curious on how many miles I actually ride in a given week…I will keep you posted! Also, I’ve been really getting a kick out of learning people’s commute team names. My friend Ellie, who works over at Adobe is the captain of Ridin’ Nerdy! Please share your team names in the comments.
Along with the commute challenge there will be events on Bike to School & Bike to Work day plus variety of Energizer Stations throughout the Puget Sound Region. An Energizer Station is a pop-up bike resource center, that the bike ambassadors fuel…sometimes we even have snacks! For the month of May we will be giving away special prizes for folks who are participating in the commute challenge. All you need is your flashy spoke card that I have pictured. Either attach the card to the back of the saddle or place in spokes! On the back are instructions on how to fix a flat tire.
To celebrate bike to work month, this unique workshop explores the connections between yoga and bike riding.
We will begin with a short warm-up at The Grinning Yogi. Then we will go an adventure out of the studio for a 4 mile bike ride, on the most scenic roads in Capitol Hill. After returning from our ride we will take a cue from the Chilling flow class and practice restorative postures that balance your body after bike riding.
Yoga + biking = bliss
*Your own bike helmet required
Please wear clothing that is comfortable for yoga, biking and the weather of the day.
Saturday May 25th 1:30 – 3pm
Class will not be cancelled due to rain!
Streets & Beets Ride: Saturday May 4th
Streets & Beets Ride is one of my favorite annual events in Seattle, plus it supports Sustainable Seattle. I have written about how wonderful these rides are here and here.
This year I will again be offering a free yoga warm-up to all of the riders. Below is a photo from last year’s warm up.
Here is the write up about this years ride:
This year, we’re pedaling 40 (ish) miles to freedom. What’s freedom, you ask? It’s anything and everything you want it to be – alongside 100 of your best friends who believe that bicycles + food have the power to transform the city.
Photo Courteous of Seattle Bike Blog
Please donate to my fundraising efforts here.
Elly Blue and I officially launched the Kickstarter campaign for the second edition of Pedal, Stretch, Breathe last Thursday! You can watch the video and learn about what makes the second edition unique. Most importantly, you can donate!
In less than a year almost all of the copies of the First Edition of Pedal, Stretch, Breathe have been sold! As of the Pedaler’s Fair this past weekend my official count is 16 copies left, out of 2000 originally printed. I will keep those few for sale on my blog for one more week.
A major new section focuses on muscle groups–particularly those heavily used by cyclists in the quads and core. A section on seasonal influences and ayurvedic principles provides guidance on activity and eating throughout the year. The nine philosophical principles of yoga are applied to bicycling. Even more poses are described, targeting the specific muscle groups used when cycling. And finally, a glossary of basic yoga and bike terms provides a handy reference. Everything is presented in a way that’s accessible to absolute beginners and regular practitioners alike in either yoga or cycling.
Pedal, Stretch, Breathe is following the grand tradition of many publications, graduating from 44 page stapled form to a 96 page (!) book with a spine, more comprehensive content, new illustrations, and a sturdy matte cover so you can throw the book in your bike pannier and head off to the park for some stretching.
I’ve had the pleasure to be a guest on three wonderful pod casts over the past few months. I was interviewed by women who had their own shows. It was interesting to see how yoga and bikes intersect in all of these different ways with different people around the country.
My first interview was back in December with with Diane who hosts The Outspoken Cyclist in Cleavland. Diane also teaches yoga and owns a bike shop. It was a wonderful opportunity to hear from someone who found connections through biking and yoga in her own life. Her shows are very informative and fun. Her most recent show is a great listen too!
Earlier this year I had the chance to talk with Joni on Yoga Chat. Jodi’s show primarily covers yoga, with a focus on LA. She is also an avid bike rider and held a show about how bikes are a great tool to save the world! All the guests on the show had wonderful contributions! Jodi and I talked about how joyful navigating the city on a bike can be. We also discussed practicing short bursts of yoga and how nice that can make your body feel after a bike ride.
Most recently, I had the chance to chat with April of Chicks on Bikes Radio for her episode on Bike Literature: Part 2, you can listen here!. Her co-host Adnan is a trainer who recommends yoga to many of the cyclists he works with. We had an interesting time chatting about yoga and biking. It was a fun conversation about Pedal, Stretch, Breathe and what is happening next in the world of yoga and bikes!