Sunday, June 29, 2014

I've Got Some New (Bike) Shoes On...

Couldn't help but think of this song as I was writing this post....

I may not be doing a lot of walking in these new shoes, but I'm feeling pretty spiffy...and excited. A while back, I shared that I wanted to get more involved with group riding. I've met a few new people, and have had a few more experiences that have been encouraging. However, as I started to explore what it meant to get involved with this crowd, there was an ever-present push and pull that had me taking my time exploring this side of riding. (Yea, I'll get back to the "new shoe" theme in a bit.)

The push. The push to have a carbon-fiber frame with thin rims and wheels. The push to have "the right" kind of wardrobe. The push to get the gear - speedometers, a racing seat, sleeker helmet. However, I found the real push came from within. The push to feel like I was a credible road cyclist.

And then there was the pull. The pull to love the bike I have - the steel-framed Bianchi Volpe I spent months researching that I bought since it is designed for long-haul touring. (A dream of mine is to ride across country some day, by the way.) The pull to not want to give up the lifestyle biking I've preached on this blog. The pull to just be me.

I wanted to see how I would do compared to some more serious riders, so a few weeks back I participating in a ride where I knew the "racing/spandex" crowd would be. Over the course of the ride, I stayed with a group of riders that were totally my speed, strength and style. I didn't get left in the dust with my steel-framed, cage-pedaling biking-self. I realized that I could strike a balance. The pushing and pulling I was feeling was gone! Through this experience, I could explore and expand my bike riding style and capabilities, and still be me. It was a win-win.

Wanting to stay in rhythm with this group riding side of the bicycle crowd, I have purchased Shimano Dynalast SH-WR42W (for those that are paying attention). Yes, folks, that means I have made the switch from cages and pedals to clipless pedals. And, they fit wonderfully with the Giro pedals that originally came with my Bianchi Volpe I bought five years ago. (So, for the record, I have a touring bike, racing shoes and mountain biking pedals. That's quite the mixed bag.)

This weekend I spent some time with the great guys at Bike Street in Clemson. They switched out my pedals, tweaked my efforts at putting the cleats on my new shows, let me ride my bike on their trainer and were very supportive to my exploring a new side of biking. (All for a minimal cost, too!) I spent around an hour as they set me up and helped me get familiar with riding with these new shoes.

So, I've made the switch. But I'm exploring a new side of biking. And, I realized, that's okay. I'm really interested in creating a place for the non-racing bicyclists, letting folks know all they need is two wheels to get riding. And that's what I've spent a lot of time doing over the last seven years as a bicycle commuter, and the last three as a blogger. However, I'm interested in expanding my abilities and experiences, and finding new tribes to join. And that's what bike riding is all about - having new experiences, meeting new people and expanding your own horizon.

Hi Guys! Me and my new shoes.
I'm really excited to explore this new path. I'll still be commuting, and I'll still be blogging about riding for all. But, in the mean time, I'll be taking some new roads - with my new shoes on.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

BITU Joins Twitter

After three plus years of blogging, Biking in the Upstate has joined Twitter! I'm excited to announce that there will be more opportunities to share, learn, converse and discuss bicycle-related issues that are relevant to the Upstate. Follow me @bikingntheupstate or search for BikingintheUpstateSC. There also may be other ways to search or find me, but I'm still getting the hang of it. I look forward to conversing with you, and throw any Twitter tips my way! Make sure you say hi in the Twittersphere.

I'm embarking on a new journey, much like bike riding, by expanding the reach of this blog. Learning as a I go, there's an expanded community to join and build. Momentum for biking in the Upstate, South Carolina, in the Southeast and across the country is growing! By joining Twitter, I'm looking forward to continue documenting the progress and propelling the future of biking in South Carolina forward. Looking forward to your tweets!

And, in other news...two weekends ago I participated in the local Ride for Wellness. This was my very first cycling event, and it did not disappoint! There were lots of seasoned cyclists there...but there was also a crowd that was a bit more my speed. With a steel bike and pedals with cages, I did well. It wasn't a race, but rather a time to go out for a ride over the back roads of Oconee County. There were peaks of the Blue Ridge, wide open fields and glorious downhill (and uphill) spans. It made for a great first-time event!

Monday, June 23, 2014

What Bike Riding is All About: A Review of G. Petersen's book Just Ride

A while back, I did a brief post titled "Just Get on A Bike" highlighting some of the national sentiment on the growing excitement on bike riding. So, when I came across a book with a similar title, I had to check it out.

 Just Ride:  A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike by Grant Petersen was released in 2012, and is a great read. Ever wanted to learn the best way to ride your bike? Curious on what the riding poncho is all about? How to (or not to) accessorize? With chapters titles like "Ride bumps with skill, not technology," "Don't overthink your underwear," Be saintlike on the bikepath," and "Most bikes don't fit," the book covers a wide variety of bike-related topics. I learned so many interesting things, from tips on bike safety to DIY upkeep to input topics like bags versus baskets, and bike shoes versus pedals and cages. I feel like this is a book that's meant to have bent corner and bike grease stains from it's use. Just a great companion for any rider. As another blogger put it, we're all doing it right.

This is not a cover-to-cover read. Serious time and energy was put into the craft of this book, making it easy to understand, yet not dull or boring.It's the kind of lit that's meant to be taken in bite-size pieces, mulled over and tried out. Maybe even be some topics of conversation with friends at the next opportunity. It would be a great gift for any bike rider - novice, well-seasoned, racer and unracer, a term that's used in th book for everyone who rides a bike in a non-racing event. This one is going to stay within arms reach for a while.

Honestly, this might be one of those "Christmas in July" times.It's available in print and digital, depending on your preferred device. This guide screams stocking stuffer!!! Pick this up for your bike buddy's Christmas or Birthday gift. And, while you're at it, grab one for yourself. After you spend a little time reading, remember, just ride.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Local Event: Ride for Wellness

Come one, come all. This Saturday, June 14 there's an open call for a free bike ride event in the Upstate for those interested in riding. The event is sponsored by Excel Rehab and Chik-fil-A with details are located on the event's Facebook page.  The lowdown: its an 8 am start time in Seneca with a 25 mile and 62 mile ride option. Those that preregister get a water bottle and a free meal from Chik-fil-A. Who doesn't love that?

Why I think this ride matters:  Many of the barriers that can prevent folks from joining in on bike riding aren't present. There's not a cost, donation or entrance fee. It's not advertised as a race - it's called the Ride for Wellness. It's not a fundraiser, which can be a great way to raise funds for organizations in need, but this ride won't be one that affects the wallets of co-workers, family or friends. It's a great event to get some event/group riding experience.

Maps will be provided, along with food and drink. And, as a bonus, there will be free physical therapy screenings before and after the ride. It sounds like a great time! No excuses. Do a quick tune-up on your bike tomorrow evening, register Friday morning and go out for a ride on Saturday. Join fellow local Upstate riders in a great event!

In other news, my previous post on biking at college campuses and college towns got featured by Streetsblog! It's a national blog on sustainable transportation and livable communities. Articles generally focus on urban topics, especially in places like Chicago, New York City, San Fransisco and Portland. I was pretty psyched, and traffic picked up significantly for the last few days. It's great that folks on the interwebs stay tuned to what's going on in the upstate of South Carolina. Thanks, guys!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Lessons on Why Biking Matters in Unexpected Places

I recently attended the International Town and Gown Association (ITGA) annual conference in here in Clemson. It's the 10 year anniversary of the organization that started out in the Upstate with Clemson University and the City of Clemson. The organization supports communication and addressing the unique issues that arise in college towns. Think of the new Seth Rogen/Zac Efron movie "Neighbors," but in a more PG version, and where the issues are a little more high stakes.  

Members of the organization include the likes of the Ohio State University, University of Michigan, Weber State, Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, the City of East Lansing/Michigan State University and others.

Why, may you ask, might attending this conference be relevant to biking? During the conference they offered an opportunity to take their certificate program where they have national experts cover a host of topics related to town and gown issues. On the Sunday before the conference started a group of about 18 mostly university folks took advantage of the course.

One of the speakers was a consultant from a national transportation planning firm. His talk covered the changing transportation demands of the current demographic in college and recent grads - and the effects that its having on our national transportation system. Or, to sum it up, how bikes are here to stay! He cited a number of reports from the PIRGS, FHWA, US Census and others showing how folks, especially Generation Y, are demanding more flexible options when it comes to getting around. What made this so exciting was that he was talking to a room full of non-transportation-oriented professionals. He wasn't preaching to a crowd that already got it, but rather to a group that's charged with developing places that young people are drawn to. To hear this message at a conference like this was unexpected, but welcomed.

At the end of the course/day, I thanked him for sharing this information with the group, and that I have seen similar things at Clemson University. I wanted to take the opportunity to share my experience and also be an encouragement that this message matters. I found out that this was one of the first times he had covered the topic like this, and that he was still working on developing the course. So, I feel like it was even more important that he hear that this is a message that needs to be shared, especially to a crowd like this.

Providing sound, safe infrastructure and programs to meet the changing needs of transportation in our cities and communities, including the campuses of higher education is important. Not only are the demands changing (along with expectations), but folks arrive at college campuses looking for new opportunities. Supporting alternative modes of transportation and infrastructure, like bikes and dedicated facilities, can be part of that new, interesting collegiate experience.