Friday, January 24, 2014

2014 Winter Bike Commuter Profile #3: Kristin

Editor's Note: This is a really great Rider Profile to read if you are thinking about trying out bike commuting for the first time- lots of good perspective, permission, and encouragement!

What is your age, roughly speaking?

Late 20's.

What is your occupation or area of study?
Library associate at Timberland Regional Library.

What is your most frequent destination on your bike?
Work! And various coffee shops & Spud's Market on Capitol for groceries.

How did you hear about the Bicycle Commuter Contest?
A flyer on the window of Ralph's Thriftway. I'd just moved here from the Bay Area and was beyond excited to see some sort of bicycle contest!

How many times have you participated in the Bicycle Commuter Contest?
Three, one for each year I've lived in Olympia. Unfortunately I've also changed bicycles three times so I only have one sticker!

What got you started riding your bike to get around (practical cycling)?
When I was still living in California, I realized how absolutely dumb it was to drive. Sitting on the freeway for an hour to go eight miles should ideally turn you away from car culture. We had a great train line and I bought a bike to ride the few miles from home or work to the train station, and then would use the train to go from city to city. I sold my car right before the BP oil spill happened and that cemented in my mind that I'd made the correct decision. Now, I don't even have a driver's license. 

How many years have you been getting around by bike?
Going on four years now! 

Describe your current average or usual trip (distance, terrain, urban/rural, etc.)
I live on the eastside and work downtown, so it's all downhill in the mornings and all uphill on the way home, about 2.5 miles each way. It isn't much in the way of a workout so I make it longer when I can. 

How have you adapted your habits to make practical cycling work for you?
It doesn't take much, honestly. For the longest time I didn't do anything different, apart from buying a basket to carry my purse. If you choose a more upright bike with a chain guard you really don't need to worry about clothing being bicycle-specific or changing when you get places. People seem to think they're going to be drenched with sweat by the time they arrive, and it just isn't the case. I thought that too, before I started - I remember asking a guy in college, "but aren't you sweaty?" to which he replied, "a little, yeahbut you dry off." 

Currently, I've invested in cycling shoes, cycling jeans, cycling socks, a waterproof cycling backpack, a secondary small messenger bag, better cycling gloves... and next up is a cycling jacket (gotta get that lower back covered!). But that's mostly because I like buying gear, and cycling is a great hobby if you like to buy lots of gear. But you really don't have to. I promise.

What are some of the benefits you have experienced from commuting by bike?
It's encouraged me to quit smoking, eat healthier, stop being so lazy, stop being so scared, and generally makes me happier. I've struggled with low self-esteem for a long time, and being able to climb up a hill without having to get off and walk, or making it through the woods in the pitch-black night, has given me confidence and a belief in myself that I wasn't getting anywhere else in my life. Cycling is a very solitary activity. You can be alone without fear of judgement or criticism, and test your limits. I've gotten to know myself a lot better through bicycling.  

What are some of the challenges you have experienced, and how have you overcome them?
Fear was and is always the biggest challenge for me. I'm not a particularly daredevil type person, and of course everyone hears about how you will DIE if you ride a bike. Once I got over that, it was the fear of crashing, or of doing something stupid and causing an accident, or of the dark wet nights.... the mind can come up with whatever it likes to place obstacles in your path. So you just have to shut your mind down and run over the obstacles. 

When I started cycling in California, my ex bought me a vintage Miyata with drop bars and shifters on the downtube. An absolutely horrible choice for someone who wasn't athletic and hadn't biked since childhood, but there you go. I hit a car when I was looking down trying to shift, and ended up bending the steel fork. So my next two bicycles were upright, safe, slow, commuter-style. After getting comfortable on them and gaining confidence, I started aching for a more aggressive posture, the feel of a steel frame, and the speed of a road bike. Eric at Joy Ride Bicycles in Lacey was super supportive of me being completely freaked out about test-biking the Norco road bike I ended up buying, and it's been the best purchase I've ever made. Sometimes we all need support and compassion, and I'm grateful to have had that when I needed it.

That's also my main reason for staring Moon Cycle*. I was afraid of riding at night for a long time, and then at some point it became necessary in order to get home from work. And then I looked up at the stars, and smelled the night air, and night rides became the best kind of rides. I want to share that with other people, and create a safe environment to do so! Plus, pizza.

What is it that keeps you going, especially when the going is tough (weather, darkness, inertia, etc)?
Greg LeMond said: "It never gets easier, you just go faster." (Probably my next tattoo.) And I keep that in mind. When I stared cycling, I thought I would get to some magical peak of physicality where it was just going to be like gliding all of the time. And that place doesn't exist. Just like you won't ever have the perfect body or the perfect job or the perfect partner, there isn't going to be a perfect ride where you don't have to work hard anymore. It's about enjoying the hard work, and enjoying how much quicker it goes by as you get stronger and, consequently, faster. 

How do you choose your route (most direct, least traffic, most scenic, etc)?
I have four solid route choices to take home from work: big hill, most direct, long chill way, and really long workout way. It takes time to develop routes and a lot of it's trial and error, so be willing to mess up and find yourself on some really awkward roads if you want to bicycle commute! 

What style of bike do you ride to commute?
I have a chromoly steel frame road bike and won't ever go back to aluminum!

Any words of wisdom for the beginning practical cyclist?
Don't belittle your accomplishments. Biking once a week for a few miles and struggling the whole way is not only better than never getting out of your car, but is absolutely essential to having more fun and going out for longer rides. If I hadn't huffed and puffed the two miles uphill home from work for more than a year, I wouldn't be able to lengthen that route by 15 to 20 miles after a full day at the library. Also, don't think that "real cyclists" are judging you. Judgy people come in all forms, cyclists included. But so do nice people, and most cyclists are nice people that just want more nice people to ride bikes, feel good about themselves and save the planet. 

What’s your favorite thing about practical cycling and/or the BCC?
Never having to go to a gym. Like, ever.

*Moon Cycle- a monthly night-time bike ride on the full moon. Next one starts at 6pm at the Kissing Couple statue on Percival Landing, on Friday, Feb 14 ~ed.

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