Bike Month Goal Reflection

Well I’m only 8 days late on my goal reflection. Honestly though, between an insane amount of riding and starting a new job, I’m going to count it as a win. It was definitely a busy month, and there were a few rides that put me in the hurt locker (namely riding to soccer, playing soccer, and then riding home from soccer). Overall, though, I spent a great amount of time in the saddle and only had like 5 flats – that’s another story, though.

Back to the goal reflection. If you remember, I had a few goals with one or two that may have been a bit lofty. Here’s the breakdown:

1. Ride my bike somewhere every day. Well, as anticipated, this one was the easiest. When we went to Michigan, we actually only spent two nights there. So on the day we left, I rode my bike to the airport to pick up the rental car (with my rack in tow). On the day we were there, I rented a bike from the Ann Arbor Bike Share, ArborBike. Once we got back, I ran a few errands. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

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2. Hit 400 miles. This was a bit of a stretch. I rode pretty much everywhere that I had the time for. I ended up with just barely over 400 miles. The good news is that I was able to log all of them as transportation miles!

3. Ride more miles by bike than I ride in a car. This was a bit harder than I was expecting. The real killer was a trip to my dad’s nearly every weekend. He lives about 60 miles round trip away, and those add up quick. At the end of the month, though, I only ended up riding in a car 337.1 miles. I’m pretty stoked to have that insane of a margin, but during a regular month I think I may be losing that battle.

4. Lead my company in miles. This was the only goal that I failed to achieve. I may have done too good a job advertising Bike Month, so I came in 5th for the month. I’m entirely flabbergasted that we had so many die hard participants this year, and as a company we rode nearly 1,000 more miles this year than last year, so it’s sort of a bittersweet loss.

75% goal achievement is pretty okay in my book. At the very least, it got me out on my bike every day in May, and I got to ride a few new trails/areas of town that I haven’t before. I’m a bit curious, does anyone have any wild stories from Bike Month that they’d want to share? Any crazy experiences? See you all next year!

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Caulk the Wagon and Float It: A Guide to Riding in the Rain

It seems like every time it’s even sprinkling outside, I always get barraged with questions from my coworkers asking if I rode in that day or they tell me how I must be crazy to ride in in such adverse weather conditions. Really, riding in the rain has lead to some of my favorite rides I’ve had. There’s something about being out in the rain that I find beautiful and calming. The trick is to just be prepared for it and have the right gear (and a change of clothes). Over the years I’ve made some great decisions and some terrible decisions. Hopefully you all can gain something from my mistakes and everyone can enjoy riding in the rain as much as I do. So here are some Dos and Don’ts for playing in the rain:

Dos:

  • Get a set of fenders. I rode for a number of years before I finally put fenders on my bike. For a long time I thought they looked kind of dorky and took away from that sick racing bike look that I had (even though I wasn’t fast at all). Now that I have them, I can’t imagine ever going back for a commuter bike. The thing is, after it rains, the ground is still wet and your tires will kick up water, causing the dreaded strip of dirt up your back (or backpack). Not with fenders, my friends.
  • Get a rain coat. I don’t want this to be an advertisement, and I’m not paid to say this, but my Showers Pass raincoat is one of the top 5 bike related purchases I’ve ever made. I am consistently astonished at how dry I am after riding in a downpour for 45 minutes. I found out this winter, as well, that it makes a great wind breaker. I can just throw a sweatshirt on and put the raincoat over top of it, and I’m pretty toasty all the way down into the dark side of the temperature gauge.
  • Carry a change of clothes. This one is pretty critical. You’re going to get wet when riding in the rain, obviously. At a bare minimum, carry an extra pair of socks and underwear – two of the primary places you don’t want to be soggy. If it’s pouring outside, plan on none of the clothes you’re wearing being usable by the time you get to your destination. Ideally, the extra clothes would be in something waterproof.
  • Get a waterproof backpack/pannier. There’s no sense carrying an extra change of clothes if they’ll also get wet on the way in. There are plenty of waterproof options out there (whether waterproof by design or they have a rain cover), but I’ve seen people put plastic sacks or garbage backs over their backpacks for waterproofness on the cheap.
  • Use a headlight and taillight. A good rule of thumb in your car is if you need to use the wipers, turn on your lights. The same rule applies for a bike. Rain can drastically decrease visibility, so turn on any blinkies you have.

Don’ts:

  • Wear jeans. Man, the number of times I’ve thought to myself “Well, it’s not that far, I’ll just ride home in what I have on”. Jeans can absorb so much water and basically never dry out. Further, after they’re wet they are not nice to the skin underneath. Chafe city.
  • Trust a puddle. This is sort of the same as they teach in driver’s ed about cars. When you’re coming up on standing water, there are a lot of unknowns. It could be a massive pothole that’s filled up with water, just waiting to ruin your day and pop both tubes (firsthand experience). It could also be way deeper than you think, and your entire bottom bracket will be submerged forcing you to pull it out and re-lube it (also firsthand experience).
  • Ride on the painted lines. I don’t know what they put on the painted street lines, but when wet those things can get super slippery. Avoid them as much as possible, as they can pretty easily cause you to slide out.

The rain is a wonderful way to help you wake up in the morning, give you a free shower, and can lead to some amazing rainbows. At a bare minimum, you can bust our your trusted fixie and practice your skids. With a bit of planning, some key purchases, and a “can do” attitude, you can be out there splashing around like a kid again.

Bike Month

Bike month is upon us, and she welcomed us with open arms, harsh winds, and rain. I am beyond stoked, and my goals are listed below. If you see me in a car, even if you’re driving that car, slap me across the face. First though, Des Moines has a local commuter challenge where individuals and corporations can compete against each other. My company usually has dismal turnout, but I’ve been pushing hard this year and recruiting as many people as I can. I even suffered through the most painful editor experience known to man (corporate America, amirite?) to bring the employees an intranet blog post. One difference this year from last year is that all trips must effectively be a trip you would normally take in a car but take by bike instead. If it’s your ride to work, it’s a “commute”. If it’s a ride to the grocery store, it’s a “transportation” ride. If it’s a Trans Iowa race, it doesn’t count. As the month unfolds, I’ll have a few more blog posts about some of the events around town, so stay tuned for those.

Here are my goals this month:

1. Ride my bike somewhere every day. This one is going to be easy except for right at the end of the month. I’ll be driving to Michigan for a wedding from 5/25 to 5/29, but I plan on strapping my rack to our rental car and bringing it up with us. I was going to try to think of an errand to run every day I don’t commute to work, but I don’t know that I’ll have a ton of errands in Michigan so I may have to open it up to recreational rides – which I, unfortunately, can’t log in the aforementioned challenge.

2. Hit 400 miles. I don’t actually know how achievable this is since I’ve basically never tracked miles. I’m going to get 220 miles from commuting to work. If I throw in a few trips to Altoona for soccer or to visit the fam, I can get almost 40 miles round trip on those rides. Ideally, these will all be transportation trips.

3. (Aside from Michigan) Ride more miles by bike than I ride in a car. Obviously I have to throw the Michigan trip out of this stat since that’ll be over 1,000 miles, and I don’t have the legs for that. Aside from that, though, I think this is pretty achievable and might be something that I’m already doing today. At 55 miles per week by bike and only driving my car once a week on weekends, I might already have this on lock.

4. Lead my company in miles. This one is largely dependent on how many people from my office participate and which ones. Last year, one of the guys rode to New Orleans so that was pretty unbeatable (we could log recreational trips last year). There’s one guy that has an 18.4 mile round trip, so if he rides every day I’ll have to surpass my 400 miles goal to beat him, and they’ll have to be transportation trips so that I can log them.

At the end of the month, I’ll go into the dirty details on how it went. Regardless of what your bike month goals are, I encourage everyone to get out on a bike at least once and have some fun! Getting from point A to point B doesn’t have to be spent in a metal box, and cycling is a great, low impact way to get some cardio and remember what it’s like to be a kid again. Catch you out there!

Trans Iowa Live

Trans Iowa v13 is officially under way. I’m driving support for Josh and Walter Zitz, and by “driving” I mean I’m going to be sitting in the hotel (see: hot tub) on stand-by in case they need someone to come and get them. The weather has not been ideal leading up to this, and it looks like we’re in for a decent amount of rain and some pretty chilly winds. A couple of years ago, at TIv11, there were no finishers due to weather. I’ve been told that this year is substantially better than that year, so hopefully we’ll see a good percent of the riders finish. If you want to follow along and listen for rider call-in updates, here’s the TransIowa Radio page. Feel free to also follow along for my live updates as I post them, from rider positions to hot tub positions.

1:50 PM (4/30): Mark Johnson pulls home the sole Single Speed finish of the year, and is the 6th and final finisher for Trans Iowa v13. Dan Lockery was 8 miles out at the cutoff, so just barely missed out on finishing this year.

12:04 PM (4/30): Walter, Jackson Hinde, and Matt Acker come in for a joint third place. There are still 2 people out on the course: Dan Lockery and Mark Johnson. 

11:20 AM (4/30): Greg Gleason rolls across the line for second place. 

10:48 AM (4/30): Officially leaving the hotel (and my internet access behind). I’ll sign on when I get home and give updates on the finishers. It’s been a wild adventure, and if you followed along at all, thanks for checking in!

10:45 AM (4/30): They must’ve miscalculated Dan’s distance from the finish, because he rolled across the line at 10:45 (about a 30 hour, 45 minute ride).

10:30 AM (4/30): Dan is about 7 miles from the finish. There are only 4 riders left in the race now: Dan Hughes, Dan Lockery, Walter, and Greg Gleason. At this point, it seems like those 4 will finish, but anything can happen.

10:06 AM (4/30): I’m probably going to be kicked out of the hotel before Walter finishes. I was hoping I could at least get Dan and Greg’s time recorded live, but they still haven’t posted updates on that (not sure if it’s because they haven’t made it or because they’re just slow to update). Check-out is at 11, so I’ll be live until close to then. After that, I’ll probably have to wait until I get home to finalize and post times.

8:48 AM (4/30): The leader, Dan Hughes, is estimated to be at the finish within the hour. The word is that he’s riding very light. Something like 2 feed bags and a single tube taped under his seat.

8:18 AM (4/30): Cereal, bananas, and bagels in the belly. Watching some Everton (get f’ed Chelsea) and looking to chillax while we wait for word from Walter and the rest of the riders out there. It seems like everyone I’ve talked to has said that the gravel was basically all mud and the B roads were essentially impassable. At this point, I think we’ll be doing well to see 5 finishers this year.

6:50 AM (4/30): Josh just got back to the hotel, and I’m astonished his bike is still in one piece. I’m astonished he’s still in one piece. It’s messy out there, friends.

6:39 AM (4/30): I’m not really a Bundesliga fan, but holy god Wolfsburg. Maybe try some defense.

6:24 AM (4/30): Walter is with Matt Acker and Jackson Hinde in Pella at Walmart. They have about 60 miles left to go, so I would expect them in around noon or maybe 11 if the wind settles down a bit.

5:47 AM (4/30): Shout out to the farmhouse in Knoxville that let a soaking wet, muddy group of cyclist strangers into their house at 4:30 in the morning. Iowa’s aight.

5:17 AM (4/30): As of around 2 AM, there were only 13 riders left in the race. I think that was before Josh, Sarah, and Luke stopped, so I’m guessing we’re at around 10 people left. They’re estimating 7 or 8 AM for the first place finish (still Dan Hughes).

4:48 AM (4/30): Just got word that Josh and 2 other people are calling it at around mile 250. The rain and wind all night long, combined with the low temperatures make hypothermia a real threat. 250 miles in this weather is an incredibly impressive ride. Walter is still out on course with the top few people, but I suspect they’re about all that’s left from the original field.

1:15 AM (4/30): A bit after 10:30 last night, Josh had caught up with the group of 5 in front of him, so he is no longer alone which is good because nighttime is scary. It appears that the rain has dwindled just a bit, but that wind is still nearly 20 mph. I haven’t heard an official count, but it looks like somewhere around 18-20+ riders made the checkpoint last night, with a few suspected DNFs after the checkpoint.

9:38 PM (4/29): Alright, fam. I’m going to try to get some Zs in while the riders travel between Checkpoint #2 and the end. Last I heard there were 30 riders left in contention, with not all of them at the second checkpoint yet. It’s supposed to be a cold, rainy, windy night, so we may see a few more DNFs pop up. Catch ya in the morning.

9:32 PM (4/29): Nice win for SKC. They had many chances for more goals, but I suppose I’m sated with a 3-0 win.

9:14 PM (4/29): Checkpoint #2 is at the Cumming Tap, AKA, everyone is refueling with a brew. Given current speeds of Walter and Josh, I’m guessing Walter will be back to Grinnell sometime around 6 or 7 AM and Josh will roll in around 8 or 9 AM.

8:31 PM (4/29): Josh rolls into Checkpoint #2 about 2 and a half hours before the cutoff. We’re on the downhill slide now. And by “downhill” I mean “really hilly and into a headwind for basically the rest of the race”.

8:26 PM (4/29): Steve Fuller is keeping things tidy on his Twitter for Checkpoint #2. Looks like Walter made it in a bit before 7 with people trickling in after him. Scott rolled in around 8:08, seemingly without Josh so he must’ve pulled away. Still waiting on updates from him.

8:06 PM (4/29): Sounds like Dan Hughes is about 25 minutes ahead of Greg Gleason — both are through Checkpoint #2. At the time of the update, there were two riders rolling in so hopefully we’ll hear soon who those were.

7:39 PM (4/29): SKC v RSL kicks off. Carry me to bedtime, boys.

7:35 PM (4/29): Man, that was stellar. The difference between warm and wet and cold and wet is spectacular. Fun story – Walter was telling us last night that one of the supporters got super drunk last year and threw up in the hot tub. I’m both happy and ashamed that I wasn’t that guy this year. Still no updates from the field, but they were expecting the leaders at Checkpoint 2 sometime around 6 — meaning that things are going a bit slower into that wind than planned.

6:29 PM (4/29): Hot Tub Time Machine. BRB.

5:23 PM (4/29): Josh and Scott are in Winterset with a few other riders. Sounds like the wind has pretty well demolished everyone, so they’re going to eat some food and regroup there before making the final push for Checkpoint #2.

4:42 PM (4/29): For the time being, the rain appears to have stopped (in Grinnell, at least). The incredible NE winds have not, however. Currently we’re looking at between 25 and 30 mph winds. The rain looks to be on its way back in a few hours from now, prepping for a chilly, wet night ahead.

4:00 PM (4/29): Cracked the first beer. Made it all the way until 4 o’clock.

3:39 PM (4/29): Haven’t heard much from any of the riders or Guitar Ted, so I’m assuming things are still going well. If the SKC match gets postponed tonight, I might be in for an early bed time.

2:42 PM (4/29): Sounds like Walter flatted and fell back into 2 unnamed people that, I believe, are probably Josh and Scott. Hopefully he can carry them out of the darkness and make a run for the 2 leaders ahead of them.

2:23 PM (4/29): Josh is in his pizza place and seems to be enjoying the headwind. Gettin’ cray cray in the middle of nowhere.

1:33 PM (4/29): Greg and Dan have pulled a away a bit from Walter currently, and Josh and Scott are behind him. The leaders are about 55 miles from Checkpoint #2, and they’re turning into a headwind with a bit of mud coming up. RIP your derailleurs.

1:23 PM (4/29): It’s funny hearing people from out of state pronounce Madrid wrong. This isn’t Spain, you guys!

12:52 PM (4/29): Shout out to my reader(s) in Nigeria! No idea how you stumbled across this blog, but thanks for checking it out!

12:10 PM (4/29): Walter is still in the lead group of 3 with Dan Hughes and Greg Gleason. Josh and Scott Ryder are riding together just a bit back of that group. First place woman is Sarah Cooper in 10th overall, at around the same mileage. Still a decent group of people pretty close together up there!

12:05 PM (4/29): Josh pulls out his secret weapon: Pepperjack Keebler crackers.

12:01 PM (4/29): I just found out that 105-110 miles in is around Madrid. Josh should stop by Nevada and say hi to Papa Bear! Also – it’s starting to sleet out there. Here we go!

11:56 AM (4/29): Josh has hit a bit above the century mark at 105 miles, so roughly 1/3 of the way done. Still no word on the donut count.

11:06 AM (4/29): And Sunderland is relegated. 1 down, 2 to go. It seems likely that Middlesbrough will be relegated as well. Jason Scholbrock’s Hull City are going to fight to stay above water and keep Swansea below them!

10:53 AM (4/29): And so it begins. The rain has set in on Grinnell — I’m not entirely sure where the course goes, but given the radar is basically entirely green there’s a good chance the riders are getting a bit of a shower!

10:31 AM (4/29): The rain is approaching quickly as the winds pick up. It looks like they’ve got about an hour before it starts and doesn’t stop for a few hours. That could certainly mix things up a bit en route to Checkpoint #2.

10:27 AM (4/29): What do you guys think? Is Sunderland going to be relegated today?

9:00 AM (4/29): Someone named Dave puked on course. That’s a rough way to go out, but he sounded in high spirits still

8:22 AM (4/29): Checkpoint #1 is now closed with 48 riders making it through in time.

8:17 AM (4/29): Breakfast update: got my bagel on, got my apple on, got my nanner on.

7:09 AM (4/29): Josh rolls into Checkpoint #1 with a bit over an hour to spare. Gummy worm status: burnin’ and turnin’. The next checkpoint is at mile 193 and the cutoff is 11 PM.

7:00 AM (4/29): The leaders reach Checkpoint #1. The current leader is Dan Hughes, with Walter in the group of 3 at the front.

6:07 AM (4/29): There are 4 people in the lead group right now, and one of them is Walter! I should’ve mentioned he’s the defending champ. They weren’t 100% sure on the 4th rider in that group, so perhaps Josh is the sleeper on this one.

5:58 AM (4/29): Just woke up from a power nap. The riders took off into a headwind, so the first checkpoint could be a doozy.

4:00 AM (4/29): 71 riders line up and fire off the line. The first checkpoint is 46 miles away, with a cutoff of 4 hours and 15 minutes.

3:33 AM (4/29): Josh and Walter are at the start and ready to rip.

3:15 AM (4/29): Josh and Walter head out towards the start. It’s about 3 miles away.

2:00 AM (4/29): Wake up time. Holy God.

Texting, Drinking, and Prison

I definitely wouldn’t consider myself a journalist or reporter in any sense, and there are numerous places where you can get faster, harder hitting, and more grammatically correct news than this blog. However, I’d be remiss not to mention the recent laws signed into legislation by the Iowa governor (Terry Branstad). Here’s a quick, totally biased update on those:

I’ll start off with the changes to the punishment for texting while driving. Until recently, texting while driving was a secondary offense in Iowa – meaning that the driver could be cited for using their phones, but it would have to be during a traffic stop for a primary offense. It’s now a primary offense, so police can pull the driver over if they’re suspected of using their phone behind the wheel. You may recall that one of my tips for driving around cyclists included putting your phone down. This is maybe just another push to follow that advice.

Even further, the law establishes a much stricter penalty for death caused by drivers using their phones to “write, send, or view an electronic message” while driving – to the tune of a Class C felony and up to 10 years in prison. One of the largest forces behind this change was the death of Grace Harken in July of 2015. The person behind the wheel admitted to texting while she was driving, causing the accident. The repercussions? A bit over $1000 in fines and a 3 month license suspension. The wild part is that this wasn’t even a unique case. Numerous cyclists have been killed by negligent drivers with little to no repercussions for the drivers, which is, frankly, fucking absurd. I am beyond stoked to see the Iowa public and legislators supporting and defending Iowa cyclists (and really every Iowa resident) by signing this bill.

The other part of the recently signed bill is around a 24/7 sobriety initiative. Basically, this means that if you’ve been arrested for being impaired while driving, you have to check in twice daily for a breathalyzer test. This program spawned largely out of a crash that killed Wade Franck in August of 2015 during Urban Assault Ride. The driver was drunk at the time of the crash and was a secondary offender that was driving while barred. It’s a bit sad that people require this sort of monitoring to just not be a total asshole, but it’s comforting to see Iowa prioritizing public safety.

Currently another important bill for cyclists, the Change Lanes to Pass Bicyclists bill, has been moved to “unfinished business”. The bill stalled last year, and it appears to be losing momentum this year as well. I sincerely hope that I’ll be talking about that story one day soon, but I’m about out of thread.

P.S. – I wrote this while listening to Run the Jewels 2. Great album.

Josh

For my first ever rider profile, I decided to go with the dude that originally got me hooked on cycling and kept my interest for years to come. I met Josh in our freshman year of college and in that same year, I bought my first road bike. For many years after that, all of my memories of cycling include Josh – from carpooling to cross races together to taking back-to-back podiums at Cranksgiving in skinny jeans on our fixed gears. We’ve created and shared countless memories on and off the bike, and he’s one of the most inspirational riders I’ve ever met. Without further ado:

How You Got Into Cycling:

I started off riding bikes about the same way every cyclist in Iowa starts off riding bikes: RAGBRAI. Minus the fact that I was roughly 75 pounds heavier, and I only rode my bike the two weeks prior to the annual great ride and then let my bike sit in the garage until next July. In college, the light bulb finally came on, and I realized that I was quite overweight, didn’t eat very well, and hated driving cars. I started commuting to courses simply because parking sucked, usually it was quicker, and I started to burn those calories — and the obsession stuck. I went on my first ride with the UNI Cycling Club and got spat out the back (I was somehow blind to the amount of work cycling actually took), but loved every minute of it. I went to a few of the indoor trainer rides, was stoked when I spun for an hour, and called it good. I did my first collegiate race weekend as a Cat D (wuht up, wuht up) and got lapped by the field twice. Somehow, I still loved it, and here I am today.

Current Favorite Bike:

2016 Focus Mares – all day smasher

Favorite Type of Riding:

All Day Brevet Jammerz. Otherwise known as, Ramblin’.

Advice/Tips:

1. Get a handlebar bag. It looks pro, and you can stash so much shit in there.

2. Cook your own food, and don’t waste calories on gels.

3. Take it seriously but not seriously at all.

Favorite Cycling Story:

I’ve had a lot of wonderful rides ever since I moved out to Colorado, but some of my favorite cycling memories include the memories that I can’t quite recall. Back in Cedar Falls, I helped rejuvenate the group ride series nicknamed the HammerRide. We always met up for beers afterward, and well, usually that led to getting Hammered.

Josh

Driving Around Cyclists

Since my last post was about riding safely around cars, I figured that it only made sense to follow up with a post about the other side of that equation: drivers. I don’t claim to be such a die-hard cyclist that I’ve never ridden in a car (although I try my best to ride everywhere within reason). Similarly to cyclists needing be aware of their surroundings at all times, drivers share that responsibility in order to keep everyone safe.

1. Be predictable. Immediately you’re probably thinking, “Wait a minute. That sounds pretty familiar, Cory.” That’s because it is! Just as the cyclist’s unpredictability can cause confusion and accidents, so too can the driver’s. As cyclists, we’re relying on drivers to follow the rules of the road just as much as the drivers rely on cyclists. It’s such an innately simple concept that’s missed all too often. This means following traffic signs, signaling, following the speed limit, etc. One frequent offender I see is yielding right of way. I find that people tend to fall into one of two categories: not yielding right of way or yielding right of way when they themselves have it. Both are really not ideal. I appreciate the thought of the latter group, but honestly it just makes everything more confusing and less predictable. Traffic flows most efficiently and smoothly when everyone remembers their driver’s ed class.

2. Pass with enough room. I really wish this one wouldn’t have to be enforced by law. Some states have a 2 feet pass law, a 3 feet pass law, and Iowa has a “reasonable distance” pass law (whatever the hell that means to you). It just seems like the natural, humane thing to do when passing a cyclist – give them enough space to feel comfortable. It might just be a simple case of the drivers not knowing what “3 feet” looks like when passing. In fact, there was an educational program in Brazil that allowed bus drivers to ride stationary bikes while being passed at 5 feet by a bus. It’s actually a pretty decent idea, and one that they could maybe start factoring into a driver’s education program one day – I would be more than willing to be their volunteer cyclist. As a general rule of thumb, though, I would say just pass a cyclist like you would another car.

3. Stop honking. This one applies to friendlies and foes. When you pass someone you know in your car, you give them a little honk and wave to say hello. The thing is, when you’re inside your car and they’re inside their car, that’s a lot of sound dampening between you. When the friend you’re trying to wave at is on a bike, though, it’s terrifyingly loud. As far as foes go, I understand that it can be hard to let a cyclist know that they ticked you off. Rather than honk at them (potentially frightening them and causing them to swerve into traffic), I would try rolling down your window at a stop light and politely letting them know the traffic law they broke. Notice I said “politely” and also “traffic law” – don’t stop a cyclist and verbally assault them because they weren’t riding on the side walk.

4. Check blind spots before turning. This is especially true for right hand turns. It’s easy to be assured there isn’t a car between you and the curb, but a bicycle is easier to miss. Checking your blind spots for both left and right turns will not only allow you to spot cyclists but also pedestrians and other cars.

5. Watch your car door when exiting the vehicle. In my last post, I mentioned cyclists getting “doored” (hit with a car door being opened). It only takes a split second to verify no one is riding up beside you before swinging your door open.

6. Stop looking at your phone. Really, this is good advice for life in general. We all look at our phones too much even when we aren’t driving, but it’s paramount to put our phones down while we’re operating a multi-ton machine at high speeds.

7. Remember we’re all human. Road rage is something that everyone suffers from on occasion. A car cuts us off, someone is driving slowly, a cyclist (or another driver) runs a light, etc. It’s easy to get fumed, but remember that we’re all just people trying to get from A to B. We all have families and lives outside of our commutes, so please be nice to each other out there.

I think that most of these are pretty straight forward and common sense. At this point, it’s pretty understandable that drivers don’t necessarily know how to or feel comfortable driving around cyclists. Until we get a more prominent section of driver’s education programs to include cycling laws and how to drive around them, it can’t really be expected that drivers will inherently know how. Hopefully this doesn’t come across as a snobby cyclist saying that all drivers need to bow down to me as a God. Well… maybe.

Riding Safely on the Road

I find that when I talk with people about riding around town, everyone is quick to remind me to be careful or tell me how crazy I am for trusting drivers enough to ride alongside them. Unfortunately, this is a very real concern for many cyclists. More often than not, getting hit is out of the cyclist’s control, but there are a few things that can give you an edge and decrease your chances.

These are a few rules that I try to follow every time I roll out of my driveway. This is definitely not an exhaustive list, and other people may have a different mental list they keep in their mind when riding in traffic. Anyway, here we go.

1. Be predictable. This one is one that is always on my mind when I’m riding and is a rule that develops over time with experience. It basically comes down to this: the more likely a driver can predict where you’ll be and what you’ll do when they’re around you, the better suited they are to handle the situation and prepare for it. This includes following all traffic laws (stopping at stop signs/lights, riding the same direction as traffic, etc.), riding in a straight line, signaling your intentions, and so on. In regards to signaling your intentions – I find that many motorists don’t really remember learning the classic arm signals. You know, “turn right = form an upwards L with your left arm”. I’ve started just pointing directly where I’m going. If I’m turning right, I point right. If I’m turning left, I point left. It’s hard to misconstrue my turn when I’m pointing directly at it. Stopping is a bit trickier, but if a car is right behind me and I’m slowing down, I very obviously unclip one foot so they can tell I’m not going to be pedaling again soon.

2. Always carry lights. You don’t always have to have them on, but try to always carry a front and rear light (more than one of each if you can swing it in case one dies). This is easier to remember if you have them mounted to your bike. You never know how your day is going to unfold – whether it be needing to stay late at work, needing to do “just one more lap” at your local dirt trail, or grabbing dinner with a friend. Always having lights on you allow you to be flexible with your schedule and, most importantly, have a safe ride home at the end of the day.

3. Take the lane (when it’s appropriate). This is another one that is sometimes hard to judge when first starting out. As a general rule of thumb, if the road is narrow enough (single lane) that you’d feel uncomfortable with a car passing you – ride in the middle of the lane or “take the lane”. Warning: some drivers will definitely not like this. When it comes to your safety, though, they can F right off. Assuming you’re riding on lower traffic residential streets (see below), most of your commute will be on a single lane road with parking on the side — at least in Iowa. In this instance, I usually ride in the parking lane when it’s available. This allows drivers to safely pass in the traffic lane, and I only need to pop out when there’s a car parked in the lane. When doing this, just be sure to double check there aren’t any cars coming in the traffic lane, cut out into the middle of the lane (take the lane), and cut back into the parking lane when there’s another reasonable gap in parked cars. This is a good time to mention that when you’re riding next to parked cars, make sure you’re wide enough into the lane to avoid the “door zone” or the zone where you’d get hit with an open car door. It sounds easy enough, but people get doored all the time and generally people aren’t looking for cyclists when flinging their door open after parking.

4. Try not to react or be an asshole. Let me tell you, this one can be tough some days. When you’re riding on the road, you’ll inevitably be honked at, cursed at, revved at, passed closely on purpose, etc. This is almost always done by someone who is unfamiliar with the laws regarding cyclists on the road. They’re probably also mad that you’re enjoying your day, and they may also hate everything fun in the world. Regardless, things usually shake out better when you totally ignore them. Like the bully that took your lunch money in grade school, they’re looking for a reaction from you. If you don’t give it to them, they’ll get bored and probably speed off into the sunset. If you feel like they’re driving recklessly and attempting to hit you, get their license plate number and report it to the police. Some larger cities (LA, for instance) even have cyclists’ anti-harassment laws. We’ll get there, Des Moines.

5. Plan routes around bike lanes and low traffic roads. This one is pretty self-explanatory. If you’re fortunate enough to have bike lanes (even just the painted ones), by all means use them. Using bike lanes can really serve two purposes: 1. you feel a bit safer in your dedicated lane, and drivers are at least somewhat more aware that you’re there and 2. it lets the city planners in your city know that improvements to cycling infrastructure are well used and in high demand (so hopefully they’ll add more). Bike lanes don’t go everywhere, though, so that’s when choosing a road with low traffic and a low speed limit can make your commute safer and more comfortable. Stay away from the 4 lane roads with 45mph speed limits, essentially.

6. Wear a helmet, for Christ’s sake. You might look less cool, but you’ll probably live.

Obviously, there are plenty of things running through my mind when I’m out riding (man, that Thai food, though), and I could probably make a list of many more things to consider for being safe in traffic. These are just some things that I feel are important when riding around vehicles.

What about you guys? Do you have a list of your own? Is there a gaping hole in mine? (most probably, yes).

An Introduction

As a daily commuter and recreational cyclist, I can talk about all things bicycle all day. What I’d like readers to get out of this blog is a place to talk about bike happenings, any tips and tricks I’ve discovered, stories, and hopefully some real world cyclist interviews.

A bit about me

Cycling has been a large part of my life since the beginning. I grew up riding my bitchin’ Huffy with a coaster brake – shredding tires in the alley behind my house. I started commuting by bike in 2010 during my sophomore year in college when I sold my car and bought my first road bike. When I moved to Des Moines in 2012, I started commuting every day to my new job and have been ever since. Iowa weather is an interesting beast. Over the course of a year, I’ll encounter 100+ degree days in 90% humidity all the way down to the negative double digits with ice and snow. My current trusty steed for all weather is a 2013 Raleigh RX cyclcoross bike with fenders and rotating tires (knobby vs slick) depending on the weather. Aside from commuting, I spent a few years racing cyclocross (ok, “racing” is a strong word) and I’ve done one official mountain bike race — that’s a funny story that I’ll dive into below. When not commuting, I spend most of my recreational riding time on my mountain bike – a 2007 Gary Fisher Rig with an Origin 8 carbon fork.

I hope that you find something on this blog somewhat useful or, at the very least, amusing.

Oh yeah, I promised a story about mountain biking. I’ll caution you ahead of time – I’ll be including pictures that are not for the faint of heart. Scroll at your own risk.

My first, and only, mountain bike race was held in Boone, IA at Seven Oaks. I had raced bikes before, and I ride my mountain bike enough that I decided to give mountain bike racing a go. It was kind of a rainy morning, but the event had already been postponed a couple of times so they decided to hold it anyway. If you’ve never been to the Seven Oaks course, it’s not what one would call “single speed friendly”. Perfect day for me to bring mine.

By about the second lap, I was already gassed and the course was getting sloppy. I was taking the switchback corners and downhill sections slow and easy, just trying to stay vertical on the bike. There was one section, however, that was flat, flowy, and fast. I was drilling it through this section, feeling more confident than I’d ever felt on a bike at that point in my life.

Then my rear tire slipped on a wet root. Before I could turn my handlebars, I was already face deep in a tree. After brushing off my body and my pride, I continued onward. On the next lap around, I took it easier in the section, but noticed something weird and fuzzy was attached to the tree I was pretty sure I had hit (foreshadowing). Not thinking much of it, I went ahead and finished the race – complete with a bloody jersey.

After the race (and a few bandages and hydrogen peroxide later), I decided to go check out the tree. Mistake.

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My friends and I had a good laugh, and I always enjoy sharing the story and picture with people. It also gave me a reason to rock a sweet mustache for a while. Maybe one day I’ll get a full face helmet. Probably not.

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Maybe one day I’ll get a full face helmet. Probably not.