Month: August 2014

Women’s Solidarity Ride — August 30, 2014

“I am a woman who is free to ride a bicycle.”

That’s a pretty amazing statement — one made more amazing when I learned about the Solidarity Ride taking place around the world this Saturday. It’s an international event to show support for the Afghanistan Women’s Cycling team.

All you have to do to participate is RIDE! Take to your wheels in solidarity with the Afghan women that dare to ride, and remember the women that dared to ride before who paved the way for independent mobility and freedom for women around the world.

If you have the time and the friend list to accomplish it, you can organize an event and email info@mountain2mountain.org. If not, just get out and ride! Tag any photos with #solidarityride2014 on social media to add your voice to the conversation.

(Shout-out to Springfield and Willard, Missouri for already being on the list!!)

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Keeping Your Cool Under the Sun

Summer is in full swing and it’s been delightfully mild so far, which has made for really enjoyable bike rides. But with a heat wave approaching it’s a good time to revisit sun and heat safety tips and precautions.

Being car-less with a busy schedule, I rely on my bicycle to get me from point A to B to C— a 35 mile roundtrip commute, during which the prevention of heat exhaustion is crucial. In the days when I was an aspiring farmer, I learned a lot about regulating body temperature and have since utilized that knowledge whilst cycling in the elements. The most important lesson was the more skin exposed to the sun, the greater the risk of heat exhaustion. Although it seems counter intuitive at first, this extensive study (Walsberg, Campbell, & King, 1978. J. Comp. Physiol. 126B: 211-222) explains why wearing dark colored long-sleeved clothing is going to keep the body cooler while riding a bike. Dark colored clothing not only offers better protection from harmful UV rays, but also absorbs the radiation of heat, yes, from the sun but from your exercising body as well! The most important factor here however, is windspeed, because even the most modest wind (anything over 7 m.p.h.) will convect absorbed heat away faster than it can be transmitted to the skin.  The fabric must be breathable and loose fitting though, otherwise that refreshing breeze produced when cycling (via air circulation) is negated and the physics of using dark clothing doesn’t work. Personally, I wear classic all black because it’s my uniform for work and school. A loose fitting shirt cools my core, but I opt for the “sweat-wicking, breathable” tights for their pedaling mobility. Snug athletic pants are ideal since loose fabric can easily get caught in a bike chain. Here are more tips for keeping your cool while riding under the summer sun:

  • Wear loose fitting, breathable, long-sleeved shirts (explained above)
  • Wear sun glasses and a hat
  • Take the shady route whenever possible
  • Drink copious amounts of water and eat salty foods (electrolytes)
  • Go hybrid: bike half and bus the rest
  • Make frequent stops to refuel on water and cool off in the AC
  • Apply skin protectant with at least a SPF 15, reapply every two hours to areas exposed to sun

All of this talk of keeping cool reminds me of yet another reason I love riding the forest trails. Not only is it cooler under the canopy, these wooded trails provide ample shade, so I’m less bothered with sunscreen (and forget the bug spray— the mosquitos can’t keep up!). More interestingly though, is that nature trails have the potential to keep our cities cooler in the heat of the summer. Studies show that our climate is in flux and metropolitan areas in particular have higher temperatures than surrounding rural areas. The phenomena is referred to as the Heat Island Effect (HIE) and it’s caused from lack of vegetation coupled with vast areas of materials that store heat from the sun, such as concrete and asphalt. You can feel the intense heat when you’re on the streets and even more so as the hot cars pass by. These wooded bike trails are one way to help lower temperatures and remedy HIE.

Therefore, biking to work is a means to actively participate in the conservation of our woodlands and environment all while cooling our city and us at the same time. The trails won’t beget themselves though, it will take revolutionary cyclists opting to ride rather than drive. The forests are beckoning, so let’s mount up and go for a ride!

Roanoke Park Conservancy is doing a lot of ecological restoration with these wooded trails within Kansas City, check out this map for detailed information.

Give me just four seconds!

On my way in to work this morning, a driver behind me at a four-way stop decided she couldn’t wait the four extra seconds for me to turn left first. She accelerated, cut the corner shallow to pass me in the middle of the intersection, and sped off in front of me. Half a block later she turned into her parking lot.

What?

Her actions easily could have knocked me off of my bike, which could have made my life either (a) much harder or (b) much shorter. All because she really needed to be in her parking spot four seconds before she would have otherwise arrived.

Drivers, I know how frustrating it is to be stuck behind a cyclist! We are slower than most cars. You have to allow ample space when passing us. We sometimes take up the whole lane — and we’re protected by law when we do. But we are still humans! Speeding around us, nearly hitting us or yelling obscene things doesn’t make the roads safer, it makes you look like an impatient jerk. Many cyclists are polite: if we realize we’re holding up traffic, we may pull over or wave you past. If there’s a group of us riding, we’ll do our best to form a single-file line as soon as we notice you behind us. But if there isn’t a safe way to do those things, it is our right to use the entire lane — and running over us shouldn’t be your reaction!

Next time you’re considering pounding the gas pedal, ask yourself: are those four seconds worth ruining that cyclist’s livelihood, or possibly killing her? Is there a safer opportunity to pass her later on the road? Can you take a deep breath in those four seconds instead?

If you can do that, I can much better uphold my end of the bargain. I can ride predictably, since I won’t be scared of you accidentally sideswiping me. I will use a bike lane when available, but if there isn’t one I will ride safely in traffic. If I do take the lane, I will do so in a safe and calculated manner; I won’t swerve out in front of you. And I will not yell obscene words at you.

The best way to treat a cyclists is as if she is another vehicle on the road. Would you pass another car that closely? No? Then don’t get that close to me, either. Would you charge into oncoming traffic because that car is driving slower than you’d like? No? That’s not how you should pass me, either! I have the same rights — and the same responsibilities — as any other vehicle on the road.

Meet the Maker: Elise Keeling of ‘Pilot Valve’

IMG_0460Meet the Maker is our series of profiles on Kansas Citians who use bikes as inspiration for their art and craft. This week’s Meet the Maker is with Elise Keeling, owner of Pilot Valve jewelry.
What’s the meaning of the word “Pilot Valve“?
Pilot Valve” doesn’t mean anything in particular with my work. I found a brass tag with “pilot valve” stamped on it. I had no luck coming up with name for my business and this seemed to work-gender neutral, easy to spell, distinctive.
How long have you been making jewelry? How did you first get involved?
I’ve been making jewelry for over 20 yrs. I’ve been using bike parts for 2-3 yrs.  I had a friend show me how to break down the bike chain and that’s how I got started.
Are you a cyclist yourself?
I’m not a very serious or consistent biker, but I love to ride around the Nelson Art Gallery on a Sunday morning.
Why did you start integrating bikes into your jewelry?
I use bike parts because they are accessible (every bike shop has a pile of parts waiting to be taken the scrap metal yard). The pieces are small and lend themselves to jewelry.  I don’t have metal smithing skills so I take a “finished” item and then manipulate it for another purpose.
How would you describe your jewelry design aesthetic?
As for the look of my pieces, some would label it “steam punk”. I think it’s more broadly “industrial”.
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Where do you acquire all your materials for the jewelry?
I know some great and generous people who work on bikes so I can get parts pretty easy. Garage and estate sales also are good places to look.  If you buy some de-greaser, most bike shops are willing to find a greasy gear cassette to donate.

Calling All Modern-Day Centaurs: Trail-Riding to Overland Park

While asphalt roads are ablaze with heat, I’m astride my bicycle under dappled green canopies, gliding through treelined trails and passages beneath the bustling streets. There’s a creek cascading over rocks, it races alongside, and we interlace as the stream snakes under the planks of wooden bridges. Mentally merging with my surroundings, I entertain the fairy-tale illusion of the speeding bicycle morphing into my galloping (Sagittarian) centaur self. Making my way along the covert course within the enchanted forest, it’s dark and cool, the breeze encircles my body, flowing through my mane as I inhale the rich earthly aroma. My innate biophilial instincts satiated, the mind silenced by the melodious birdsong, I drift away with the current of the creek…


 

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Indian Creek Trail beneath College Boulevard Bridge

This is my commute and more importantly imagination at play.  I avoid many of the exhaust ridden streets and travel 15 miles to work by bicycle via the parks and recreation trails from Midtown to Town Center.

I link together the trails of Mill Creek Park to the Trolley Track, and my favorite, Indian Creek Trail. On days I want a break from my zealous expedition however, whether it be extreme weather conditions or that I’m just wanting to read, I’ll take the KCATA bus #57 from the Country Club Plaza to 103rd and Wornall where I can access Indian Creek Trail behind the posh QT.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of riding this wooded trail, I highly suggest making a trip, there’s a mystical beauty to the forest that stirs the soul.

Check out this map of the Indian Creek Trail for more detailed information.

Curious about KC Bike History?

Used with permission from Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, Missouri

Used with permission from Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, Missouri

I’m a visual learner. I like photos and videos, postcards and historical dramas (Downton Abbey! Call the Midwife! Mad Men!) to help me figure out history, and how it applies to me now. So, when I want to know more about Kansas City history, I go to the Kansas City Public Library’s website, kchistory.org.

Today I typed in bicycle! Here’s what I’ve learned, and I’m only on the first page of results:


What can you find?