ok kids, bike grrl on the prowl, riding home in the pouring rain and – oh goody! – a whole lotta hail pelting against me. i get to park my bike literally in my office – we have a rack next to the reception area so just take it up the elevator and roll it in, pretty awesome. so i don’t have to worry anymore about the plastic bag on the seat thing all day like my last job (although someone told me a shower cap works better, good thinkin’!). anyhow, i suppose i should do my ecogrrl thing more on this blog, and thanks to my girls over at 5 Seed and Reduce Footprints, i’ve been inspired to chat a bit about my three years living without a car.
it’s not the first time i’ve been car free. since i left home at 17 i’ve spent nine of those twenty years without a car, and in only one place ever did i drive to work (santa barbara, the world’s lamest transit system and at the time i wasn’t savvy on the bike commuting thing – even though the weather is perfect, you know how californians are so obsessed with their cars). i was a bus kid since i was 7 years old, riding down to saturday market with my big sister, skipping class in high school with friends to ride the bus downtown and buy records, shop for cool pointy toed boots and fishnet stockings, drink coffee, and smoke cigarettes at the pizza joint. never thought about life as requiring a car – everywhere i lived, i made sure there was a bus nearby, plain and simple. bought my house and made sure of it – why be stuck somewhere you can’t be independent without a car? i don’t get it, never have. and so i found a little house in a little ‘hood with three busses within walking distance. and found that i barely drove except out of laziness. most trips were to the grocery store and such, nothing out of bus or walking or biking range. so i got rid of it.
ironically the day after i put it up for sale the transmission died. talk about a sign from above.
and then my coworker started nudging me about biking to work. i had friends who did but didn’t have a lot of confidence, and hell i only had a mountain bike. well if you’ve never ridden a hybrid or lighter, you don’t know what you’re missing, and perhaps that was a good thing! the first time i rode the 4.8 miles each way into downtown, i did it at 6am on a sunny sunday morning. i wanted to make sure i could do it, and that no one would see me if i breathed heavy going up hills! haha – no really, it’s true. but guess what, i did it, and when i got home i felt like lance armstrong. or so said the guy i was dating at the time, heehee. and after that? hooked. i lost 20 lbs within a couple months and realized this was a way of life. i put a rack on the back of my bike, i bought a basket to attach to it for $10 (way better deal than a $100 pannier and much more flexible use!), some lights (front & back, plus one that attaches to the back of my helmet, super important to me as i think 2 lights are better than 1), and fenders (it’s oregon, i don’t want the skunk stripe!). i found a bike shop i liked with nice guys who don’t act too cool for school. and although this year i upgraded to a norco indie hybrid that is a lot lighter, i kept my mountain bike – both for friends who visit and for winter snow, because yes, darlings, you can ride in the snow, wheeeee! nothing better than cruising past cars stuck in traffic, getting primo parking wherever you go, and no germy bus people when flu season hits! i’ll take getting soaked in the rain anyday over that! bike clothes? not really. i have several adidas stretchy lycra jackets with thumb holes in the extra long sleeves that i love, which have deep pockets for the ipod so i have tunes during my ride (and don’t diss the tunes – plenty of y’all turn your radio up sky high when you drive). i usually am in yoga pants, or in the summer, bike shorts under a flowy li’l skirt. i don’t have rain gear except for a raincoat if it’s particularly bad – the adi jacket dries at work and is dry by morning, and keeps me surprisingly warm. bike shops charge like $200 for jackets, it’s horrible, so i protest. i won’t melt if i get wet! we keep a hairdryer in the ladies’ room at work, and i’m not a high maintenance girl as it is, so just pull it back and get to work 🙂
so that’s that. ecogrrl on a bike. got questions? ask away. but i will say, don’t be afraid to try the car-free thing, and believe me, a bit of time on a bicycle will surprise you – what you notice compared to when you are driving, how much more free you feel, how a sunday morning in the summer will just beg for you to get on it and go ride into town, to your local cafe, or through nature. it’s pretty cool 🙂
my basics (+ links to where i could find ’em):
i’m a total coupon whore so if you have a chinook book in your city, take advantage of it. otherwise a lot of basics you can find at target, believe it or not. not always the best, but a way to start! get a krypto lock of course, i think this is a ‘duh’ thing if you don’t want it ripped off 🙂
* apparel on a typical day: i try to go to the gym then hop the bike home, plus i have casual work environment so i don’t have to change, so for me it’s usually leggings/yoga pants and a skirt + t-shirt + adidas jacket (hint: go to the adidas outlet – you can usually find one there wayyyy cheaper. i love the ones with the thumbholes in the sleeve. make sure there’s deep or a back pocket on it. then you can get some reflective tape to put on it if you go in black like i do). Note: i am not recommending old navy as an eco brand, but i have the skirt in about 8 colors, they’re cheap and they transition well from summer to winter, easy to bike & play & dance in, so they’re a couple years old & i expect to have ’em for a while!
* fenders: one time out in the rain w/o and you’ll know why these are important 🙂 i love the ones by planet bike as they cover most of the tire rather than just part. skip the $9 clip-on ones, i learned in the rain they’re not the best. fyi: get these at your local bike shop and often they’ll install them for free. as my bike has disc brakes and i’m mechanically challenged, this was vital to my sanity 🙂 also if you just bought a bike you usually get a 10% discount on accessories. they also come in different widths so if you come in with your bike as well, they’ll make sure you get the right size.
* helmet: i got mine at river city bicycles here in pdx but really? any helmet works as long as it fits. they’re all essentially styrofoam padding around your head so it’s more of a style thing after that. they start at i think about $20. i have a massive head so i tried a ‘men’s’ helmet (whatever, they all look the same). people here wear nutcases a lot but i found it made my head look like a bowling ball, plus i’m cheap and $60+ is silly to me.
* rack: easy. they’re all good – amazing what you can clip on, strap on, what not, once you have this. good foundational piece for your bike. me? i hate backpacks, anything touching me when i’m riding, so this was without question.
* basket: i got mine on clearance for $10 but even for $20 this fold up one is awesome. you can fit your cloth grocery bag in it perfectly. also 15 lb bag of dog food, etc. i like this better than panniers because you’re not limited by shape/height/etc. worried about it getting wet? have an extra oversize plastic bag with you. easy.
* lights: i have three – a good blinky one by planet bike for the back under the seat (super easy to put on). i always leave it on blinky rather than solid – anything to catch their attention. my front light was from fred meyer, not this one by planet bike , but really anything in the $20 range is fairly powerful for riding at night – i can’t stress this enough, the little ones suck. other thing: i strongly recommend a helmet light as well for the back – anything to make you more obvious is good!