Month: August 2013

Biking by the seat of my pants: My first commute

When it comes to trying new things, I like to jump in. I don’t like reading manuals, and I don’t like looking things up. Occasionally, I do research as I go along in my process and run into questions. But I absolutely hate spending time reading a manual if I don’t have to. I just want to figure things out on my own!

When I started using a bike for my daily commute, I took a similar approach. I just jumped in and tried it. I let my senses and experience guide me.  For example, I knew I wanted to start slow. It took my body sometime to get used to walking long distances with bussing. I knew it would take some time for my body to adjust to biking as well.

My method was to start slow using a combination of biking and bussing. Sometimes I bussed to work and biked home. Sometimes I bussed halfway and biked the rest of the commute. Every Kansas City metro bus has a front loading rack for two bikes. Just be sure to fold the rack into place when finished, or the bus driver might holler.  Yep, another thing I learned through experience.

My First Bike Commute: From Martini Corner to Waldo

My first bike commute provided me with a lot of opportunity to learn. I took the Troost Max from 31st to 75th street and biked the rest of the way into work. After my shift was over, I walked outside to find a sky of doom. There was a blanket of dark grey clouds drooping from the sky, and I hoped I could beat them by biking to my next destination rather quickly. Oh, it was optimistic think I could bike to my friends house before the clouds starting showering upon me. I was about halfway there when Niagara Falls opened up. I had no choices but to wait it out underneath a small tree for shelter. When the rain let up slightly, I biked the rest of the way to my friend’s house. Soaking wet, I made it just in time for dinner. I was just glad it didn’t hail.

A photo I took while sheltered under a tree.

A photo I took while sheltered under a tree.

The next step was making it home from Brookside to the Martini Corner area where I live. I had dry garments thanks to the help of my friend. I faced a decision.  To bike? To Bus? Both? I hopped on my bike and started riding around, not quite knowing the best route and heading in the general direction of home.

After a few turns here and there, I spotted a sign!!!!

bikeRoute

A Bike Route Sign

Feeling relieved, I used these Bike Route signs to guide me on a safe passage home.

The weather was cool and bathed my skin in a way that allowed me to enjoy a refreshing, invigorating ride.

When I got home, you can be certain I told my roommate all about my ride!

“You biked all the way from brookside, eh. That’s far!”

“I know, and it wasn’t that bad at all”

After my first round trip commute, I learned:

  • Starting slow is good, but taking risks can result in significant rewards. I didn’t think I had it in me to go all the way from Brookside to Martini Corner, but I did and it was worth it!
  • I learned the importance of checking the weather. I still don’t quite know the tricks of commuting in heavy rain. Wear a rain jacket? Take the bus?
  • The Bike Route signs are a great tool to navigate the city without a bike map. Just follow the signs!
  • Best to have a change of clothes on hand! I can’t imagine what I’d do if I arrived to work and the only clothes I had were soaking wet.

And here my friends, is a photo of me during the rainfall on my first bike commute.

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Me after the rain! Soaking wet!

Biking does a body good. (AND A MIND!)

We all know that there are ample physical benefits of biking: A heart and a pair of lungs as strong as tanks, the astronomical amount of calories burned, the low impact on the joints, a strengthened immune system, increased muscle tone, better stamina, etcetera, etcetera . But my Big Book of Bicycling reports the lesser-known perks of biking and I can’t keep them to myself! After 6 years of commuting by bicycle, I agree with all of the below. Hear this:

“1. IT KEEPS YOU SHARP. Concentration: Activities that require balance, quick reactions, and decision-making skills–like martial arts, gymnastics, and cycling–best control Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children.
Memory: For the hippocampus–a region of the brain that controls long-term and spatial memory–bigger is better. And as with the rest of your body’s muscles, exercise makes the hippocampus grow. Reports show that exercise helps older adults retain cognitive function and avoid disorders like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
2. IT REDUCES STRESS. Research has shown that vigorous exercise is so effective at quelling anxiety and depression that some patients have been able to reduce or eliminate the use of medications such as Prozac and Zoloft. People who get regular vigorous exercise are less likely to develop anxiety disorders and depression.
3. IT MAKES YOU HAPPIER. Exposure to plants and the outdoors has been linked to reduced aggression in inner-city residents. Exercise increases your body’s production of endorphins–and sends them to the same part of the brain that are activated when we fall in love.
4. IT BOOSTS SELF-ESTEEM–SERIOUSLY.
5. IT HELPS YOU HAVE MORE (AND BETTER) SEX. The aerobic conditioning gained from regular riding translates to greater stamina in other activities, including sweet romance. Additionally, a study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health showed that men over 50 who kept physically active were 30% less likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction. Amps your sex drive: Testosterone is directly related to sex drive in both men and women. A study found that older men who exercise regularly produce more growth hormone and testosterone than those who lead an inactive lifestyle. Regular exercise can boost testosterone levels in women, as well. You’ll want to ride more regularly.”

Group bicycle rides are my favorite way to meet other cyclists. It's also a blast to bike with everyone!

Group bicycle rides are my favorite way to meet other cyclists. It’s also a blast to bike with everyone! There are several weekly group bicycle rides in Kansas City.

6 years on 2 wheels

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I’ve been smiling around-the-clock since BikeWalkKC has contacted me and asked me to share with you what it is like to commute by bicycle. There’s plenty to be said and for this reason I can hardly contain my enthusiasm. Over the next 3 months, I want to encourage you to get out there, fight the good fight, sweat it out, and change your life. “A bicycle can change my life!?” Yes. Yes it can. But I don’t blame you for not believing me. I wouldn’t’ve believed me either 6 years ago.

Buying a bike was one of the most pivotal moments of my life. It was the beginning of a seriously beautiful relationship. I fell in love, madly in love.
And so I divorced my car. We’re over.

I’ve been a car free cyclist for 6 years and over 5,000 miles. I do just about everything on my bicycle except brush my teeth and race. I’m not a competitive cyclist, but rather a “zen cyclist”. I do it for the love of doing it. There are not many things in this world that make me happier than riding my bike. But people, let me tell you something—this is NOT how I felt at first. At first my legs burned a LOT. It wore me out, broke me down, and I made plenty of “rookie” mistakes along the way. It was a struggle: me against the hill, me against the wind, me against traffic, me against myselfAnd true, I still face the adversity of weather and traffic, but I assure you my friends, it gets easier.

I didn’t know that within a few months of cycling I would be the strongest I’ve ever been. I didn’t know that it was possible for me to be happier (special thanks to science for endorphins!). I didn’t realize that I would gain an astounding amount of energy and a fierce appetite that I delight in satisfying because I can. Finding a parking spot, making car payments, getting gas, locking my keys in my car, getting stuck in traffic, getting my car broken into, property taxes, and having “surprise” car problems are all history. HALLELUJAH!

If you are unsure about committing to a bicycle and you want to “try it before you buy it”, I suggest renting a bicycle through Kansas City’s Bike Sharing program (kansascity.bcycle.com). If you would like a riding buddy, please don’t hesitate to ask! It wouldn’t be the first (or the last time) I offer my time to show someone the ropes of inner city street cycling.  And please feel free to ask me any questions you may have!  Stay tuned for advice, motivating stories, and photos.

Cheers,

Tika

tikabike

How this newbie arrived at the crossroads of biking kansas city

Stephanie at the KC Public Library.

Hello, I’m Stephanie! This is me at work!

I’m super excited to share with you a new part of my life that is unfolding. For the first time, I have begun embracing biking as part of my transportation method. I’d like to share with you my experiences as I begin this new chapter and discover what it’s like to embrace bike commuting.

First I wanted to share with you why I started biking. I admit that for years, I had wanted to abandon my car to begin biking. One of the roadblocks that prevented me from doing so was time and cleanliness. I like the convenience of getting to and from work without being terribly sweaty from a bike ride. And I like that driving a car results in a more timely commute.

This past Spring, I was finally forced to give up my car. After two car wrecks, it was finally time to trade the car in for a different lifestyle. I felt like memorializing the car, as it had gotten me through these past ten years of trying to meet my transportation needs. I imagined painting it vibrant colors and adding little objects to it before sending it off to the junkyard. After letting it sit untouched for nearly two months, I was finally ready to give her away.

Here is a photo of my old car with my dog Kona, after a visit to the vet. RIP '98 Purple-Grey Toyota Corolla.

Here is a photo of my old car with my dog Kona, after a visit to the vet. RIP ’98 Purple-Grey Toyota Corolla.

The loss of my car was overshadowed by new opportunities at hand. This blessing came at time when I was short on cash and could use the insurance money to get by while I searched for an extra job. I started buying monthly bus passes and when I had a temp job close to home I simply enjoyed the walk to and from work. In the back of my mind, I always wondered about biking. When would I be ready to take the extra plunge and try it out? After months of hiking miles between bus stops and transit destinations, I felt I was finally in shape. My body felt ready to go to the next level.

One day I received news that a special sale was going on. A friend was back in town for the weekend and selling her old bikes. I knew Christi would set me up with a good bike because they are her specialty — her life. I tested a bike and ended up going home with quite the deal.

My roommate took this photo of me on my new bike.

My roommate took this photo of me on my new bike.

Along with my new bike, I got a set of instruction from Christi on what I needed to start biking.

  1. Always lock your bike! Purchase a chain from a local hardware store and wear it around your waste if you need the reminder to lock your bike up.
  2. Get a helmet and get a tire pump, immediately
  3. Check the tire pressure daily. Otherwise, there is risk in damaging the frame.
  4. Learn how to repair a tire. Go to a bike store and to purchase a repair pack and ask them to show you how to change your innertube.
  5. Check your tires for glass after rides.
  6. Ride with other people and you’ll learn more about bikes! Be social!

I think I’ve done a pretty good job incorporating these tips into my transit approach. Although I haven’t purchased a helmet yet due to financial issues, I finally found a friend that was willing to lend me her dusty helmet until I am able to purchase one of my own. When you need something critical such as a safety helmet, it doesn’t hurt to ask around to see if someone has an extra one that can be borrowed!

I plan to continue sharing more updates with you as I move along in my process of biking in Kansas City. I’m still working on the social aspect; being introverted makes it hard to reach out for invitations to social rides and large crowds like critical mass seem daunting without knowing I’ll find friendly and familiar faces. Part of that anxiety is probably related to my “newbie” insecurity. More recently I was invited to ride with a group of women bikers. I feel as if I am slowly being connected with the culture.

Stay tuned for more updates about my first bike commute, learning the ropes, and photos documenting these experiences. I’m also really into hand-created zines and hope to share some biking zines with you in the future.

I am a participatory learner, so feel free to leave comments and tips as we go through this process together.

Welcome

BikeWalkKCLogoBikeWalkKC is the unified voice for active living, promoting a healthy, safe and accessible outdoor experience for all in a vibrant, engaged community. We may be the unified voice, but we wanted to provide a venue to hear from the individual voices of Kansas City’s bicycling community.

 

We have found two women who will be blogging about their cycling experiences for the next few months.

Tika Wrisner has been car-free for seven years. Tika lives in the midtown area and commutes down to the Plaza. Our other blogger, Stephanie Isner, recently added cycling to her regular bus commute from the Martini Corner neighborhood to the downtown location of the Kansas City Library.

We hope Tika’s and Stephanie’s posts will educate and hopefully inspire other Kansas City residents to incorporate bicycling into their everyday lives and commute. If you would like to be a future blogger, contact info@bikewalkkc.org.