Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Why I Bike: Kiersten



When did you learn to ride your bike? Who taught you?
I reflect on this a lot.  I grew up in a time (and place) where kids went out to play in the morning and only came home for food, if they were bleeding or because they were called. Modes of transportation were essential to that freedom.  The big wheel came first, but around five years old I got a bike. My grandfather (a child of the Great Depression) found the bike at the town dump one weekend.  He hauled it home and fixed it up and taught me how to ride.  Soon thereafter I lost the training wheels. 

I remember the stream of bikes over the years.  Banana seats and streamers to the first 10 spd.  Other people’s bikes that didn’t fit right but who cared.  My bike carried me to high school (because I didn’t live far enough away to qualify for a bus.)  My bike brought me “downtown” and to the beach.  I explored every inch of my community on my bike.

In what city and state do you live? (country?)
Now I live in Medford, MA which is 4 miles north of the financial district in Boston and under a mile to Tufts University.

What is the biking culture like there?
Boston’s Mayor Menino declared, “The car is no longer King.”  Every town has a coalition or union or some entity to support cyclists.  In the last five years we’ve seen the introduction of a share bike service, Hubway, and bike lanes virtually everywhere.  More real infrastructure is being designed and built these days.  But, like anything else we have very real growing pains which mostly revolve around attitudes and education.

What kind of bike (or bikes) do you have?
I had an old hybrid that got left behind by a shiny, new road bike.  I love my road bike, Isabelle.  I named her after my grandmother.  I won’t say I believe in guardian angels, but if anyone is looking down upon me and offering protection I’d expect it to be my grandma.  I have two sets of wheels, thanks to my awesome boyfriend, for Isabelle.  One set is for road rides and the other commuting.  It’s a great set-up!  I also used to have a mountain bike, but it got stolen.  I had one season of cross-country riding which sure improved my bike skills.

How often do you ride your bike?
I’m very seasonal, or a fair-weather rider.  Right now in the greater Boston area the ability to bike commute is based on some factors like routes and your personal fearlessness.  Plus, because of the work I do, I need to change clothes and get myself presentable on the other end which is not always an option.  So, April through October I try to bike to work at least a few days a week and I get out and ride with my bike club, Northeast Bicycle Club, the Luna Chix (Luna bars sponsored riders) and friends.

I wish drivers...
Oh boy.  Now this is a very loaded question!  =D

I wish drivers didn’t drive distracted (texting, talking on the phone, etc.)
I wish drivers would SEE the bike lanes and realize that they should check their side mirrors to see a cyclist approaching before making turns, changing lanes and pulling into parking spaces.

I wish drivers would be patient and remember that a cyclist is moving under their own power and that momentum means a lot.  Slowing or stopping a car to allow a cyclist to pass takes 1 or 2 seconds.  Slowing or stopping a bike to allow a car to pass can result in a minute or more of working to get back up to speed (for some folks).

I wish driver’s education included bike safety (as in does in foreign countries.)

I wish drivers were required to spend a day on a bike in the city.  I wish cyclists were required to spend a day in a car in the city.  We both have so much to improve.

I would ride my bike even more if...
There was better infrastructure and weather.  And, I didn’t sweat so much.  ;)

My favorite bike snack___________
The only time I need to eat on my bike is on longer rides.  In those cases I can say that caffeine helps me A LOT.  I get a latte before the ride and will sometimes refuel with a Clif gel with caffeine in it.  I think because I do not use a lot of caffeine in my daily life I really get the physiological and psychological benefits.  I have done a bunch of really long-distance rides and I discovered a treat:  I mix pretzels and mini-marshmallows together in snack-sized ziplock bags.

My favorite piece of bike gear is
I’m a woman.  The two most vital pieces are a great saddle and bottoms with really good chamois.  Add a chamois cream with tea tree oil and you’re going to be able to ride a lot longer in comfort.

Do you ride your bike in all weather?
Only when I get caught in something unexpected!

Do you own a car?
Yes.  With bike racks on top.  We often take our bikes to NH and ME for long coastal rides.

I mostly ride my bike ___
For exercise and fun.  Because we have road bikes we tend to maintain a healthy pace and go for 30-50 miles.

My favorite thing about riding my bike....
It feels good.  Being outside and exercising just feels good.  And, I love the fact that it’s both solitary and social at the same time.  I can be in my head for a few miles just feeling the sun and breeze, looking at everything I pass and smelling all the smells.  Or, I can sit up and chat some.

The coolest trip I’ve done on my bike….
I have two major accomplishments with Isabelle.  My friend’s mom was dying of Leukemia so I joined Team in Training and trained for the el Tour de Tucson (109 mile ride).  Last year I did The Climate Ride (5 days from NYC to DC, 325 miles).  They were very different kinds of rides but both testing me in terms of physical ability and mental tenacity.  They didn’t kill me, so I guess I am stronger.

The bike trip I’m dying to do…
I want to go touring in Europe.

Craziest thing I did (or craziest thing I carried) on my bike:
I have done some crazy things on my bike and they all involve speed.  I took a skills course and learned how to ride in groups (and bump into people), how to turn on slippery surfaces and how to do high-speed, downhill cornering.  I love technical challenges on my bike.  I love the confidence I have in handling skidding over a manhole cover in the rain or bunny-hopping over an obstacle.

Does your house/apt/work have special accommodations that make biking more feasible?
My bike is light, I can easily carry it.  There’s a full locked facility at work for bikes.  Public transit is well equipped for bikes.

Holly, you asked me when I learned to ride and all about my biking habits.  But what made me get back on a bike as an adult?
I was overweight and I have some arthritis in my knees.  I lost a bunch of weight and was looking for some ways to be more physically fit.  Unlike all of my “athlete” friends, exercise was not a part of my daily routine.  It was something I had to make myself do.  So, I tried to find ways to adjust my life to make exercise a non-option.  I got certified as a Spinning instructor and took a job at my gym.  I always liked bikes and the natural progression was to get back on one.  I rode recreationally.  Then I rode as a means of real exercise.  I trained for events.  I honed my skills as a cyclist and lead rides with my bike club.  This past year I started riding to transport myself.  The bike has changed my outlook on my health and the world around me.  The bike has brought out the humanitarian in me.  It’s literally a vehicle to so many things.



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