Monday, May 31, 2010

Biking. Pella, IA. Excellent.

 Pella's Volksweg Trail. Simply lovely.

Okay, I've made my jokes over the years about Pella being a quaint, sleepy Midwestern town,  but I have to say, the biking is pretty great.

 Gem #1 is the Volksweg Trail (Volksweg is "Folks' or People's Way" in Dutch) that starts just outside of town and travels 13 miles around the very nearby Red Rock Dam. This is a paved trail, closed to traffic and swept clean by the Howell Station Campground hosts every day. Seriously. This trail is amazing. The path rolls through some sun, some shade, lovely views of the Lake Red Rock, cool bridges and enough hills and curves to keep things interesting.

I took two trips on the trail while I was in town last week. The first was a girls' ride with my two older sisters. I don't think we've biked together since I was on the baby seat on my dad's bike more than 35 years ago. It was very fun to get out and move with these powerful women.

The second ride was with Hot Husband and my dudes the next day. The pace was much slower and the weather more humid, but we made our own cool breeze as we pedaled along. It was a relief to be able to bike with all of them without being on full alert for traffic. (For those of you easing into family rides, I highly recommend starting on bike paths. It's a lot easier on the nerves.)

Gem #2 is Pella's completely bikeable downtown area. The town is built on a downtown square, so getting around to the shops and tidy  neighborhoods is unbelievably easy. Locals complain that the stores they frequent aren't so easy to reach by bike, but I think that's a matter of perception. Car culture has trained us all to push our margins for available time, so we think we couldn't possibly bike. Reality? It wouldn't take that much longer to bike in a town like Pella.

But I digress.

The only odd thing about biking downtown is the utter lack of bike racks. Not sure what gives on that point. Might be the low crime rate.

Gem #3 is local bike shop Iowa Bike & Fitness owned by Marty Doane. Marty's a legend in the state as far as wrenching goes, and he has an impressive biking resume, too. (Full disclosure--my sister works for Marty.) The shop is packed full of bikes and accessories, but not a lot of technicolor jerseys and fluff. Marty's a practical guy.

Practical and particular. He's got the only bike shop in town, and he refuses to fix big box store bikes. He'll order the parts if you need them, but that's it. He'd rather spend his time on quality bikes that he knows will be roadworthy after he's invested his time repairing them. He also makes sure he has good mechanics and trains them well. Several people who have worked for him have gone on to open their own bike shops or work for big names in the biking industry.

It was great to have the freedom to toodle around town with my dudes and see a diversity of bikers. Retired folks on hybrid bikes, families with bike trailers, the lycra crowd on road bikes, tourists on recumbents and beginners hoping to get in shape were all out in force. I was glad to be among them.

Da Sistas, pre-ride

  Me with the dudes the next day

At the top of the dam

Biking pros

 Marty Doane of Iowa Bike & Fitness

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Biking cartoons

Just ran across a blog featuring cartoons by Thom Bahde that pretty much sum up why I bike in three frames. Here's my fave. Lovely stuff! Please see more at

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Getting there: Spearfish, SD

We're making our way from Bozeman, MT to the Midwest, and our first stop, due to Hot Husband's determination and ability to drive late at night, is Spearfish.

Our occasional driving forays to the Midwest left me with the impression that Spearfish was just the biggest city east of Billings, MT where we could stop for the night. True in a way, but this morning, we got to do a little more exploring by bike.

The haul from our home to Iowa takes a couple of days (breaking it up so we don't all go insane) so we're looking for ways to get them out of the car and move their bodies. Before we locked them into car seats this morning, we unloaded the bikes and took a spin around town.

The city park is a total gem. There's a lovely bike and walking path next to Spearfish Creek which you can use to get to several locations in town, a great wooden playground, and quiet streets we could use to get around. Just perfect for a quick bike adventure before we had to hit the road again.

Hot Husband and the dudes before we found the bike path

Can't go wrong with boys and water!

Our bikes, waiting for the next adventure

Streak broken or sanity saved?

Biking in May snow . . . just not today

Gotta admit that I just broke my biking streak today. We just hit the road on a trip, and I was not able to get out on my bike today, due to the thousand details that needed to be managed.

While it would have been great to say I biked every single day, it just wasn't in the cards today, and forcing it to happen just would have interrupted the flow of things. I'm okay with that. I also know we have our bikes along on our trip, and Hot Husband has committed to biking every day, which will be great.

While the streak has ended, I'm so grateful for the challenge. I've been out in every kind of weather this month, gained more muscle than I would have without the goal, and I've had a lot of fun. The dudes are rapidly getting more confident on their bikes, which is a wonderful thing to see so early in the biking season.

I'm pretty philosophical about the whole thing. I've got almost two weeks of biking adventures ahead!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Midwest Bike Tour!

Wait, it's not? We're really taking a couple of weeks to go see family? It's so easy for me to get confused these days.

We just packed up and hit the road for heartland, the turf where I was born and raised, so we could see our oldest niece walk across a stage and receive her high school diploma. It's an exciting time in our family, since she's the first of my parents' grandchildren to hit this landmark. To mark the occasion, my sibs and I decided to hit the road and all meet in the darling town of Pella, Iowa, where my sister and her family live.

We took the bikes, naturally. All 4.5 of them.

Hot Husband decided that he was going to bike every day of the trip, so he ordered a bike rack that, yes indeedy, can hold five bikes. (Reviews to follow for those of you interested.)

I'm stoked because it means we get to move around as a family under our own power when we get to a new town. Pella is perfect for bike commuting, plus it has some lovely trails for more recreational riding. During our Chicago stop, we'll be exploring the lakeshore trails, and then we hit the one of the the best biking cities, according to Biking magazine: Minneapolis.

Stay tuned!

Monday, May 24, 2010

A helping hand in South Africa


Very cool video about a project to document how everyday South Africans use their bikes. Project coordinators Nic Grobler and Stan Engelbrecht hope to use their travels, writing and photography to being more bikes to South Africans, who will be able to enjoy more independence and better health through everyday cycling.

To see more projects like this that renew your hope in humankind, please visit It's great web concept, where innovators pitch ideas for new projects and the rest of us pitch in cash to get them started. Definitely a great community-based way to offer funding without the whole rigmarole of securing a bank loan in today's economy.

Many thanks to David for the link.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Bike commuting: some numbers

Huffington Post had some interesting stats in honor of Bike to Work Week, so I'm sharing.

 --The average American drives 29 miles per day. If you substitute one day’s worth of driving with riding per week, in a year you’ll burn enough calories to lose 19 pounds. You’ll also reduce auto emissions by 1,248 pounds of CO2, and save more than $800 on gas and maintenance. Whoa.
--80 percent of people who switch from driving to bike commuting improve the function and health of their heart, lungs and blood vessels in 8 weeks (emphasis mine), according to the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives.

I'll see you pedaling around town!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Gear lust: bike basket

Not the most practical basket I've seen, but it's a design knockout. It's cut out of a single piece of metal, which makes full use of the metal plus saves on shipping. There's also a rear basket design; each $75. Made in USA from locally sourced materials. Order from

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Wednesday: Bozeman B2WW

 Sola owner Tiffany Lach bearing glorious muffins

On a drizzly, chilly Wednesday morning, Bozman bikers still turned out in force for amazing goodies at Sola Cafe, one of my favorite spots. Hot coffee, juice and still-warm muffins were being served by owner Tiffany Lach and her staff on the patio outside.

My dudes and I braved the weather to head out and grab some breakfast for bikers. We home school, which means we don't really have to bike anywhere in the morning, but I told the guys it would be an adventure.

The ride let me know that we usually pick the best times of day to ride. There was a lot of traffic, and it was pretty nerve-racking to keep my eyes on the boys and other drivers. We all made it quite safely, however, and the weather just got better and better.

On the way home, Monkey Boy said, "Me love biking this time of morning!"  Me too, sweetie.

Many thanks to Sola Cafe and the GAS Team for sponsoring this morning's event.

Crowded on the patio . . .

. . . and in the parking lot.
Bozeman police officer on two-wheel patrol

Can you say flair?

Me and the dudes. Tiger Boy, Monkey Boy, Dragon Boy.

Bozeman bike news

Fresh articles on the local biking situation! Here's one on Bike to Work Week, and another on the need for more bike parking in Bozeman.  I'm glad another bike parking area is being added, and I'm sure that 15 additional spaces is just the tip of the iceberg as far as parking that's needed. Hey, hey-- downtown merchants are taking notice of the increase in biking!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Korea gettin' hip to bike culture

Great article on how Korea is taking cues from the bike-happy Netherlands so it can be bike friendly, too.

Some interesting stats, which I need to spend time checking:

 --The Netherlands is the only European country with more bikes than people. Estimates are 1.1 bikes per person. Montana, my home state, boasts 3 cows per person.

--30% of the daily transportation in the Netherlands is by bicycle.

--The Netherlands attained high biking levels through a focused "Ride a Bike" campaign that started in the 90s.

--The biggest complaints from Korean bikers about the current bike commuting situation seems to be the lack of bike lanes (sound familiar?) and a lack of bike parking lots.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Good news! I'm not in the hospital.

 Check out the chin. That's gonna leave a scar.

The women's GAS ride started off so innocently last night, with introductions, a few instructions, and then that nasty little moment when I hit the asphalt with my chin.

It would be lovely if I could blame it on a tricky turn, an erratic car, or someone else's bike handling. Nope. It was all me. One overeager squeeze of the left brake while signaling right, and I was one with the parking lot.

The last time I fell this hard, I was eight or nine, and it was almost the same accident. It was the days before mountain bikes, and I was riding a boys' BMX bike with very touchy steering. I was pedaling along on a gorgeous fall day. I remember the blue sky, the shade of the towering oak trees, then hitting an acorn and sailing, smacking my head and shoulder on the landing. The handlebars had slammed to the right, stopping the bike immediately. I kept going.

Even though I was probably unconscious for a tiny bit, I was okay. My dad heard me crying and came to pick me up and bring me home. I can still hear the jingle of his keys as he ran to find me. No broken bones, no visit to the ER; just a few nasty scrapes that left nearly undetectable scars.

Same deal with this crash. I have this lovely facial cut that I'm sure will elicit the many, many "Oh, my God. What happened?" responses, but aside from that and a couple of other scrapes, I'm fine. Really. Really lucky, too. No trip to the hospital, no concussion, no fractures, no broken bones or teeth, didn't take anyone else down with me, and the bike looks fine.

After a pit stop at one of the other riders' house for a couple of Band-Aids, I finished the ride from the library to Triple Tree and back home, which was about 16 miles. Hot Husband put in a few stitches (he's a surgical physician assistant--don't try this at home), and then I was more than ready for a drink and bedtime.

At this point, most folks in the media establishment would start tossing out dire warnings. Don't let this happen to you! Always wear a helmet! Never ride alone! Make sure you have a cell phone and identification with you at all times! Seek medical attention immediately! Falling is bad! Very bad!

Of course, everyone should take common-sense safety precautions, but here's a little news flash: I'm here. In one piece. Falling is not fun, but it's hardly the end of the world. In spite of my post-crash jitters about stopping safely in a group and general embarrassment over crashing in a parking lot, I got back on my bike and did just fine. I took the biggest hit to my ego, truth be told.

I say this because I hear from many people who want to start biking again that they're afraid of falling. I completely understand. But falling is a teeny, tiny part of biking, and the rest is definitely amazing, and I wouldn't want you to miss it over a fear that's easily overcome.

Many thanks to the other women on the ride who were so kind and supportive. It's hard to be a dork, and they were graceful about letting me be one.

Homework: Bike handling skills and a flashier story about the accident.

Awesome Bozeman women, pre-ride. I'm the one taking the picture.

Tuesday: B2WW Bike-a-palooza at the Co-op!

Families from Learning Circle Montessori heading to school

The Community Co-op was the place to be this morning! Dozens of bikers showed up for goodies and music on the patio, ready to pedal to their next stop of the day. Word on the street is that the Co-op is one of the most popular stops during Bozeman Bike to Work Week because of items like fair trade coffee, hard-boiled eggs and Morning Glory Bread in their spread.

Tomorrow, Bozeman Bike to Work Week stops at Sola Cafe, on the corner of S. 3rd and Kagy. Many thanks to the Co-op staff and Team Muleterro for making this morning possible.

For the schedule for the rest of the week, click here, then scroll down a bit.

Check it out--bikes propped up everywhere next to an empty parking lot!

The lovely Bertelsen family ready to roll

George Carter's pooch has its own rig

Attorney Bill Bartlett dressed for his daily commute

One amazing patio party!

 Morning rush hour

Monday, May 17, 2010

Bozeman Bike to Work Week: Roots

I've never been a trendsetter.

I will readily admit that I'm a Jane-come-lately to the the whole recreational biking scene, taking full advantage of the work that biking geeks before me toiled to make possible so I can enjoy a world where bicycle lanes, women's-specific frames (Thank ya, Lawd!), and fun biking events are ready and waiting.

David Baumbauer is one of those geeks. I mean that in the best possible way, naturally. He was one of the early members of the Bozeman Area Bicycle Advisory Board back in the days when Bozeman was a national biking joke for its measly 6 blocks of bike lanes and Bike to Work Week was a bit shorter. Like Bike to Work Day kind of shorter.

Back then, David says, there was one morning a year when a local bike shop and bakery teamed up to offer coffee and goodies to the bike commuters that made their way downtown. As the event grew up, there was also bike education for elementary school kids, a bike repair clinic, commuter bike shows, and contests to discern the best way to carry a beer keg on two wheels. Such practical matters.

Today, B2WW offers five days of morning goodies for bikers at different locations around town, so  bikers coming in from any direction will be able to hit a complimentary pit stop. Five different biking organizations will have volunteers helping with the morning rush.

"It's a fun place to reconnect with people and enjoy the start of the cycling season," said David. "It's a very nice social time. You see people going to work, people who are retired, and kids on their way to school."

The long view of this event, of course, is to get more folks to try bike commuting, which will get the attention of the infrastructure powers that be when they're making decisions about placing bike lanes and generally making streets more accessible for cycling. These sort of concrete and asphalt adjustments don't come cheap, but the cities just named in Bicycling magazine's feature on best bike towns can testify they go a long way to making livable places.

Thanks to everyone who's working hard to make Bozeman more hospitable for human-powered transportation.

 David "Da Bomb" Baumbauer in all his jackalope jersey glory this weekend. Thanks, man.

B2WW Bozeman: Monday

 Local dudes fueling up for the day

Here's the early morning scene at Rockford Coffee, just a few pedal strokes from the heart of downtown Bozeman. Many thanks to Team Delphine for the coffee, yummy donuts and bagels!

Rockford's familiar to the biking crowd as the big screen host of  the Giro d' Italia this month. Coverage with coffee continues there through May 30.

Here's the coffee-swillin', bagel and doughnut chompin' crowd. Giro d' Italia on the TV on the right. 

Taylor has one serious commuting rig. Kids or adults can ride on the back. Padded seat, even!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Mamacitas' Ride!

 Mamacitas and mountains!

Today, I completed the first-ever women's bike ride that I had organized. Baby, was it great!

As some of you know from reading this blog, May weather in Montana this year . . . sucked. Now, I don't like to complain, because I know I live in one of the most enchanted places on the planet, but there's only so much cold, snow and wind a girl can take. This month was chock full of all three.

Then yesterday, the skies cleared, the sun warmed the earth, and ahhhh, it was practically summer. Perfect weather for the moms' ride I had scheduled with a few friends, and it held through today.

Five of us met at an incredible local coffee shop, Sola Cafe, and did an great 11-mile loop, picking up another friend along the way. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, the breeze was just right, the company perfect. It was nothing short of magical.

After chatting, laughing and cruising along, we made it back for coffee in about an hour, and spent some more time swapping stories about kids, husbands, and life in general. Is there anything better than laughing with other amazing women?

If you missed this one, stay tuned. There are more to come. I'm thinking coffee, ice cream and cocktails. Probably not all at once.

You can also email me at if you want to come along. That also goes for those of you who are passing through Bozeman and want to be part of a fun, non-competitive ride with local chicas.

In front of Sola, ready to hit the road

A latte with love

Elle's cool socks say it all

Cool Electra cruiser with even cooler Domestic Lady McBag panniers. Never heard of 'em. You?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Yep. Still bikin'.

 The snow is gone now, but this is pretty much what early May biking was like.

It's May 13, and I can still say that I've gotten in a ride every day this month. Hasn't been easy, but I'm still on track.

Spring in Montana certainly doesn't make it easy. We get summer for a few days, then winter. Summer. Winter. Then summer settles in for good.

The only thing we can count on for sure is heaps and heaps of wind. Often, it's difficult to match my ride time with a lull in the gales, but I have gotten lucky a few times. The evening of Mother's Day was one of those sweet spots. After a fun day with my dudes and some friends, I was able to get out on one of my standard routes and catch the last golden rays of the evening light. When I pulled in the driveway at a few minutes after 9 p.m., there was still enough light to see.

Mother's Day biking looks like this . . .

Saturday afternoon's ride was a whole other Oprah. I had no idea that there could be a headwind in any and every direction I chose. In a word, it sucked. As a LUNA Chix biker told me this week, "The wind was so bad, we were pedaling downhill."After 30 minutes of getting pushed and blasted, I walked in the door and said to my husband, "I just want to cry."

But I didn't. I showered, headed to a birthday party with my dudes, and carried on with life. Some days are going to be tough. Other days, they're glorious.

To get in my ride a day, I've spent a couple of sessions on the bike trainer. Call me a wimp if you like, but after some experiences in miserable weather, thinking I was being hard core, I found that those rides are just draining and empty for me. I'm just not into sufferfests.

The magic and frustration, of course, is the utter unpredictability of this season. Below are three shots taken at the exact same place, not far from my house, at roughly the same time of the morning in one week. In May. I swear.

May 5

May 6

May 7

Your backside on a bike or . . .

Maybe I should get them labeled with days of the week for National Bike Month! At Cafe Press.

And Happy Birthday, sis!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

LUNA Chix road ride tonight!

Meet at Chalet Sports on Main Street in downtown Bozeman at 6 p.m.

I'll be there if the wind isn't gusting. I sooo hate riding in big wind. You'll find me in the blue helmet with the purple bike in the back of the pack, pretending like I know what I'm doing.