Monthly Archives: May 2013

Silicon Valley Bike Style

Copenhagen has Cycle Chic, New York has #BikeNYC and San Francisco has Bike Pretty, but did you know that Silicon Valley has Bike Style? Yes, indeed, in the last couple of years, I’ve been spying more and more stylish people riding beautiful bikes all over the Valley. The word is out that you don’t have to get kitted out in lycra or other performance bike wear every time you hop on a bike.

I had never seen as many stylish people on bikes strutting their stuff as I did at the Bike Away From Work Bash hosted by the SVBC at San José City Hall last Thursday night. I grabbed people out of the bike valet line and quickly snapped almost 50 bike portraits. The full set of portraits shows an amazingly diverse community of riders. Whether in lycra or jeans or work clothes, everyone looks great when they’re on their bike.

What’s your bike style? Urban edgy? Frills and lace? Preppy classic? Euro sophisticated? Slouchy chic? Whatever it is, you can show it off by uploading your photo on the newly launched Silicon Valley Bike Style.

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Posted by on May 11, 2013 in Cycle Fashions


Fashion Friday: Katie in Candy Apple Red

Some things are just made for each other, even when they’re not. Katie fell in love with this retro-styled A-line skirt, delightfully piped in red with big red buttons. But it took years to find its perfect mate: red polka-dotted blouse with delicate tuxedo ruffles and a narrow-banded collar and sleeves. A match made in heaven.


Katie was one of the many fashionable people at the SVBC Bike Away from Work Bash at San Jose City Hall.

About Fashion Friday: Inspired by a 2011 Bike to Work Day challenge sponsored by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, this series highlights the broad range of “dress for the destination” bicycling fashions.


Posted by on May 10, 2013 in Cycle Fashions


Bike Commute Diaries: Energized by the Mayor

I saw lots of new faces on bikes on my commute this morning. You see, we’re celebrating Bike to Work Day today so the casual commuters were out in force and gathering at Energizer Stations for coffee and snacks. The new face I was most surprised to see? Mountain View Mayor John Inks on a bike. That got me energized.


About the Bike Commute Diaries: Launched in May 2012 for National Bike Month, this series explores the unexpected and surprising things I’ve learned about bicycling for transportation.


Posted by on May 9, 2013 in Commute Diaries


Anything Goes Challenge: At Dawn, Nadia Rides

I’ve known Nadia for years. She and I fumbled our way into cyclocross racing together and emerged friends. Nadia lives on Potrero Hill in San Francisco and commutes to her office along the bay in South San Francisco. Here is her Anything Goes Commute Challenge story, condensed from an extensive series of posts on her blog.

I started riding to work last year after ten years of car commuting. I’m not a newbie to bike commuting–riding was my primary mode of transport for about 13 years, most recently when I was in law school, riding up and down the East Bay Hills with my casebooks in my panniers. I returned to cycle commuting last year as a way to integrate exercise and commuting and to get some JOY in my morning commute.

baytrail wildlife-001

Solo Ride: My canonical bike commute is a solo ride along the most direct route between my home and work. It’s 1/3 city riding, 1/3 semi-suburban and 1/3 blissful Bay Trail. It’s not all pretty on this route, which features some fairly gritty urban riding. To minimize the traffic congestion on the gritty part of the route, I leave early–between 6am and 7am. I really like getting to work on the early side and I really, really like leaving work by the fixed company-bus schedules. I tend to stay late to finish up work otherwise.

Company Shuttle: My employer provides bus service to and from work, with routes over the SF Bay Area. Two of the bus routes have stops that are ~2 miles from my house, so I use this bus ride-bike ride combination to get home on days when I ride to work in the morning. I put my bike in the luggage compartment below the bus, relax on the bus on the ride into the city, then ride home from the bus stop. My employer also offers a $2 each way reimbursement for not driving, showers/towels/bath products on campus and secure bike parking.

Sunrise over Mt Davidson

Group Ride: There is a surprisingly large community of San Francisco bike commuters going south in the morning, and I’ve been pleased to join various groups for the early morning ride in. I’ve been riding with SF2G about once every two weeks on their First Friday Friendly Frolic, a “no rider left behind” ride, and slower Style 3 rides. I’ll also leave earlier than a faster group, see how long it takes them to catch me, then attempt to hang on. I also commute with co-workers every now and then–either by plan or by running into them on the road.

The group rides are fun for a lot of reasons, including the company, the challenge (I always ride faster up the little hills when with a group!), and for the draft in the headwind-y bits. I also really like the reinforcement of committing to a group ride in advance–this helps get me up and out in the morning and keeps me out of the car. Riding with a group also breaks up the tedium of doing the same route again and again.

SF2G First Friday Frolic

I have several alternative routes that I take to increase the mileage and riding challenge and for variety.

Dawn of the Dead: “Dawn of the Dead” goes out of the city on Mission Street or Alameny, then circles around the backside of Mount San Bruno. It goes through Colma, the city of cemeteries, and if I time it right, I arrive at the cemeteries at sunrise. After a screaming descent, I cross the freeway and head to work on the Bay Trail.

San Bruno Mountain: I love this little mountain that sits right in the middle of my commute. While my standard routes circumnavigate the base of the mountain, I sometimes go right over the mountain on the way to work. I head out of the city on Mission, turn left on Crocker, which climbs steeply up the backside of the mountain. A bike legal dirt path winds around the ridge line, affording wonderful views over the city, the bay and the summit. A fun descent down Guadalupe Parkway and I’m back on the canonical route to work.

Fog on San Bruno

Commuting with Panniers: During the challenge I took my first trip in on my “new” commuting machine: my old road bike repurposed with a rack and single pannier to carry a heavy laptop. I won’t ride with it in my backpack as its weight bothers my back. The bike has been ready to go with rack and gear for a few months, but I’d been apprehensive about riding it in. I was worried that it would be less fun to ride in on the heavier rig: the bike weighs in at about 25 pounds un-loaded, and the rack, pannier and laptop add another 10 pounds.

I learned it was pretty nice to ride in without a backpack! The bike has lower gearing so I made it up my steep (18%) initial climb and the single pannier didn’t impact handling much except when I was out of the saddle. I felt sluggishly slow on the ride, but my ride in took 55 minutes which is within normal range. I did notice the weight while carrying the bike downstairs to exit my home in the morning and when lifting the bike to put it into the company bus on the way home from work. But the weight was manageable.

Overall assessment: I give the win to the bike commute with the shuttle ride home. I get the most exercise by riding, especially the alternative routes which add on miles/challenge. It’s also the most fun and least stressful, plus I get social benefit when I commute with others.

My best days at work start with a bike ride. I have noticeably lower levels of stress throughout the day. Endorphins in action? I don’t know but whatever the mechanism, I’ll take it!

Nadia Scorecard

*Biggest downside is the factor Nadia finds most significant

What’s the next challenge for Nadia: I bike commute 2-3 times a week at best–definitely something to keep plugging away at. This commute challenge has afforded me the opportunity to think about some other options for getting into work. The most obvious was getting my pannier-enabled commuter bike up and running so I can ride in when I have my work laptop at home. Another is to find an alternative route for post- 7am starts so I can ride in a little later if necessary, rather than driving because I dislike my normal cycling route at that time due to heavy truck and freeway traffic on a portion of the route. I have an alternative route in mind that I’ll try out soon.

Thanks, Nadia, for participating in the Anything Goes Commute Challenge! To learn more about Nadia’s challenge insights and her other adventures, check out her blog.

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All photos in this post are courtesy of Nadia and are used with her permission.

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Posted by on May 6, 2013 in Anything Goes


Charting New Commuter Routes for Bike to Work Day

The heat was on last weekend, just in time to kick off the outdoor festival season. But instead of riding over to the A la Carte and Art festival in downtown Mountain View, Dick and I rode across town to REI to represent the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC) at REI CycleFest. In addition to working with government and businesses for improved bike facilities, SVBC also provides education and encouragement for riders through programs like Safe Routes to School and Bike to Work Day, which is coming up this Thursday.

REI CycleFest

Bike to Work Day is the kickoff of the biking season for casual riders, who will dust off their bikes, pump up the tires and dig out a messenger bag for a bike commute to work. For people who ride every day, Bike to Work Day can lack excitement. It’s just another work commute, albeit with a few more riders out on the road and a chance to get a free muffin or banana along the way at an Energizer Station.

For Dick and me, REI Cyclefest was a perfect way to help people jumpstart their riding. The other booths had gear covered, so we spent most of our time pointing at the bike map talking about where to ride: efficient, low-traffic routes to work or stores and scenic, quiet routes for fun. About half the attendees were neighborhood and bike path only riders, while the rest were comfortable with on-street routes. All were looking for new options.

Dick Gives Route Ideas 3

First it was a couple from East Palo Alto that was curious about riding across the bay on the Dumbarton Bridge. Then it was a double century rider looking for a cross-valley route to Mt Hamilton east of San Jose. Then a woman in her 70s who sees the Guadalupe River Trail from the freeway but can’t find a trail entrance. Then a teenage boy from Palo Alto who loves roam the gravel levees in the Baylands–how far they could take him?

For all the rhetoric about why people don’t ride, I think what limits cycling is how many nearby places there are where people feel comfortable riding. People love bikes, but if they don’t have a good route to work or school, or they have to load bikes on a car for every social ride, they won’t ride as much. It all starts with the route.

Do you find yourself doing same old rides? How do you find new routes or ideas for places to ride?

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Fashion Friday: A New Road Style from Giro

Back in the day, real cyclists wore wool. It combated bitter chill to keep them warm and wicked sweat to keep them cool. In 1976, lycra came on the scene for bike racers and it was game over. Wool jerseys were relegated to touring cyclists and those looking for vintage appeal. Now there are new breeds of performance wool bicycle apparel that gives lycra a run for its money and offers a lot more style, like the New Road line from Giro.

Eric Richter from Giro

Eric Richter of Giro was kind enough to model for me outside the New Road launch party at Palo Alto Bicycles.

About Fashion Friday: Inspired by a 2011 Bike to Work Day challenge sponsored by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, this series highlights the broad range of “dress for the destination” bicycling fashions.


Posted by on May 3, 2013 in Cycle Fashions


Bike Commute Diaries: Next Gen School Bus

Every morning in high school my classmates and I bumped down Perkins Road crammed in a bright yellow school bus. We chatted with friends, rushed to finish homework, listened to music on our Walkmans, and girls like me rolled our eyes at the loud boys in the back of the bus cutting up to get attention.

There aren’t many school buses out here anymore, but the prep school boys from Bellarmine travel to school in style on Caltrain. With smartphones to keep them entertained, five spacious rail cars for the 100 or so boys and their own rail stop, it’s not quite what we had. But it’s certainly familiar, if you add some girls rolling their eyes.


About the Bike Commute Diaries: Launched in May 2012 for National Bike Month, this series explores the unexpected and surprising things I’ve learned about bicycling for transportation.

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Posted by on May 2, 2013 in Commute Diaries

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