Friday, January 22, 2010

Water, Water, Everywhere

It's been raining in Los Angeles since last Sunday afternoon. I remember it well. After not being able to bicycle to the farmers market because I'd slept in, my boyfriend and I decided to drive. It was then that the skies opened up.

There exists a passionate love/hate relationship between the rain and myself. Love it because it cleanses the air and hydrates the ground, prepping a healthy arena for springtime to eventually blossom forth. Hate, however, due to sludge, flooding, and persistent wet.

The other day I had an appointment that required an earlier start if I was to get there by bus. Since an earlier start was not part of the equation, I biked it. It was cool, cloudy, and a little damp in getting there, and I hoped with every fiber of my being that I'd be allowed the same conditions while returning. Mother Nature proved to be a prankster with her slight drizzle as I hopped on my bike for the return trip home. Turns out she was not to be so abiding by my request.

Watching the cars go by while cycling home in the downpour, I could see there being a definite purpose behind windshield wipers and good traction in all but usual circumstances; a benefiting from a reinforced frame while hurtling through space at 40 MPH. Cycling in torrential rain is almost enough to make one wish they had a car (almost). Of course people looked at me like I was crazy - my curls were sodden, my makeup all but gone, and I'd nearly lost a contact lens - but I had to get home.

I don't prefer to bike in the rain. Living in SoCal - where it rains for three to four weeks maximum all year - I've not made time to be equipped for it. Still, my adventure in the rain inspired the thought of what could help the next time I decide to test the sky - a bright yellow rain poncho. Simple, visible, and it can usually fit over any backpack or messenger bag. Eventually I'll be hitting up the web for rain wear that would work for the protection of even formal/business wear (jackets, pants, etc). For the foreseeable future, however - poncho to the rescue.

Streetsblog Los Angeles is welcoming all stories about commuting in the rain this week... join in on the conversation.

Happy cycling~

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Not Everyone is Paying Attention

I used to work in car insurance, and during those three relatively short years of claims, questions, and fact-finding, it was drilled into me that drivers should drive as much for others as they do for themselves.

Sadly, most people drive for themselves, which is not so difficult a task considering the capsule-like environments within respective vehicles. "Nothing can get to me; I'm in my protected capsule-like environment." Such thinking can lead to the worst acquired habits and the most avoidable of accidents.

You've probably had someone slow down abruptly in front of you before making a right turn into a driveway. Their argument might be that they were slowing down; it should be obvious to others that they'd be making a right turn. But that's what the right turn signal is for, no? You can't always tell someone that, but it's true. Use your signals, and you'll be seen. Lesson learned is that one should never assume that people are going to see you, even if you are doing all you can as a driver. Not everyone is paying attention.

This is where it leads to cycling. The other day I rode my bicycle in traffic, heading to meet my mother for lunch. With a bright red backpack strapped to my back and a fair parallel distance away from cars parked next to the curb, one would think that I'd be visible to most anyone on the road in broad daylight. I was doing everything right.

Well, chalk it up to a driver in a champagne-colored minivan to "not see me" when attempting a right turn, nearly crashing into me from behind. My question is this: If not weaving in and out between parked cars, wearing dark clothing, or whatever the case may be, how do you almost hit someone in front of you unless you're not paying attention?

"And I'd like to thank God for my reflexes..."

If you have an abrupt reaction to a cyclist following the rules of the road in Los Angeles of all places, then it's quite likely that you were not paying attention.

In the last month, I've been a driver, cyclist, and pedestrian, sometimes all in one day. No matter the mode of transportation, though, the most important rule to follow is to make sure you're seen. Signals, bright colors, moving with traffic in a straight line. Still, I can't forget the saying that goes, "I'd rather be alive and wrong than dead and right."

What happens if you were doing everything right? What more can be done?

Any thoughts?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I used to think I was a multi-tasker until a good friend told me that there's no such thing as doing two things at the same time. And then I thought about it: whether you're watching TV while doing laundry, or talking on the phone and making dinner, you're either half-doing two things, or not getting anything done at all.

When I first started riding my bike about three years ago I used to wear one earbud in my right ear. Work, errands, you name it and in it would go. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone, honestly. Actually, about a week into doing so, I simply refused to distract myself so carelessly.

I recently read in a popular magazine that listening to music will greatly amp up your workout output. In a gym, sure. I think most people can see that controlled environments and music can go hand in hand. But when you're going anywhere from 10 to 20 miles through space on a two-wheeled device - to me it's best to have as much control as you can over an environment that constantly changes every hundred feet.

I often wish for a distraction when I first get on my bicycle, whether commuting or training. Thankfully about five minutes in, the scenery changes and I start thinking about things - my daily to-do list, politics, pop culture, self-stuff, etc. - and need for distraction is no longer. It's not worth the crash. The likelihood of crashing is already high enough without, but that's another subject entirely...

Photo via

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Friendly Competition

We all know how personal goals work - you lay the groundwork for a particular accomplishment to take place of your own accord, for example, to jog for a half an hour instead of fifteen minutes. When you meet your goal, it obviously feels great. You're in a friendly competition with yourself. Who easier to "beat" than yourself?

This month, I'm in a very friendly competition, this time with friends. The goal is to cycle 300 miles in 30 days. Yep, 300 miles. It's actually not a whole lot, for at the time I'm writing this, I need approximately 168 more miles by January 31st in order to meet the goal. The best thing about this competition is that it's not about speed, or solely about endurance; it's about using a bicycle for the kinds of things that you wouldn't think twice about using a car for. It's providing an alternative to gas emissions and sitting on your butt, and what with the fabulous winter weather we've been having in LA (70+ degrees, represent), it's not an absurd notion to act on.

So I'm in. What I'm hoping to get out of this is to continue to ride my bicycle for training and exercise purposes and regular transportation; more importantly I hope to challenge myself. Whether hills and inclines, lengthier rides (30+ miles), the mechanics with my bike, or making sure I'm providing my body the nutrients it needs to go the extra mile (or ten), I'm looking to gain plenty from this.

Personally I had to establish only one rule before I ever had set foot and posterior on a bicycle three years ago. That rule was: make sure that this will work for you. Will you get more than you put in? My answer was yes.

So what do you say? Every little bit counts, what with saving money on gas, instant exercise, getting in and out of parking lots faster - you name it, and likely it can be done. We're looking at 22 days left in the competition, but I encourage you to take note of your miles until January 31st also. A very painless route in which to do so is online, through either Google Maps, Map My Ride, or Sanoodi (the latter being a no-fuss favorite). With a free account you can keep an online record of your miles, before or after a ride. If you're interested in keeping track as you go along, a reliable and reasonably priced cycle computer will surely do the trick.

What about you, readers? Competition or not, have you gained anything by way of two wheels? If you haven't yet, what's standing in your way?

Photo via Flickr, user unknown

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Be Prepared: Your Basic Bag

I've always found that it's a good idea to carry some sort of bag when on my bicycle. Whether planning for a pleasure ride or running errands, knowing that you can easily access one bag that has pretty much everything you need will make your ride go smoothly before your feet land on the pedals. These are my suggestions to you for your bag:

    1) Start with a backpack. Particularly one that is of a bright and distinguishable color or style, and pocket/sections for storage. Think outside of the JanSport box. You'll want something that can also tolerate potential wet, sludge, and dirt.

    2) Get a good lock (or two). And make sure to keep the keys handy. With a cable lock and u-shaped lock you can secure your wheels and frame as needed for any pit-stop.

    3) Fingerless gloves. Try riding with then without bike gloves, and you will feel the difference. Comfort is key, even on the shortest of rides.

    4) Head and rear lights. With it being wintertime, sunset steadily approaches at 4:50 pm these days, and you don't want to be caught in the dark. Having a head light not only will help you see, but along with the corresponding rear light you will up your chances of being seen. The brighter, the better.

    5) Invest in reusable bags. This works on days when you know you're going to hit the farmer's market or grocery store, but also on days that you don't. If not already equipped with panniers or something else to cart home your goods, I personally prefer a canvas bag since, with a backpack, it can be lifted on the shoulder with little fuss. If your ride is more than five miles, however, I suggest investing not only in reusable bags (just for the heck of it) but in a rack and panniers, which can be found at a variety of online bike stores like Bike Nashbar for relatively cheap.

So to recap - a basic carrier with sections for your gloves, lights, locks, and extra bags just in case. Simple, but practical, yes?

Also suggested on to keep in your bag on your basic ride is:

    -your wallet (ID, and if you need to make a purchase, paper and/or plastic)

    -cell phone (for emergencies or pit-stops)

    -Vaseline or lotion (for dry skin)

    -a patch kit and extra inner tube for changing your tire (of course, your cell phone will come in handy for your friend to pick you up/keep you company if you don't know how to do so, but try to avoid this maneuver)

    -water (this should be obvious, although this should go on your bike; to be discussed later)

    -and for comfort, a small snack (think fruit)

Do you have a bag set aside for your travels, local or far? What do you keep in your basic bag?

Happy cycling~

Monday, January 4, 2010


My name is Lindsey. I'm a Valley girl who likes to ride her bicycle. I've lived in Los Angeles county all of my life. I've gone through two cars and numerous bus passes in the last seven years, but the two most important wheels that have become a staple in my current life are the ones on my bicycle. The benefits of constant cycling have been an easier commute (both regular and impromptu), a slightly better mood, a lot more exercise, and the knowledge that every mile of manpower means lessened pollution. Also, I haven't had to fight for a parking space since 2003.

I'm not going to even pretend to be an expert with bicycle repair. I'm not. As much as I love riding my bicycle, I am still learning to repair a flat tire. I'm pale green in comparison to others when it comes to getting my hands dirty with grease and oil - but as the saying goes, all in due time.

With that said, I do know how to ride. I find that it's important to know how to ride with traffic, and most importantly be seen when on a bike. I'd like to eventually go into practicals such as how to pack for a long ride, or how to be prepared when going to the grocery store, or how/where to lock your bike. But I also hope to take some test rides and documenting them here. For example: riding to the museum. Riding to a job interview. Riding to a venue in West Hollywood on a Saturday night. The possibilities are endless!

Los Angeles is a big place with a lot of things to see, do, and accomplish, and my goal is to help others (and re-affirm to myself) that this too can be done with what resources are available - in this case, a bike. This blog is definitely a work in progress, but I hope to share some adventures with you from the viewpoint of being a normal everyday person cycling in a city that is not necessarily known for its friendliness as much as it is for its forced tolerance. And I hope that you will share with me, too!

Happy cycling~