Driving along “The Loneliest Highway In America” as determined by LIFE magazine back in the 80’s, Nancy and I came across a couple of characters riding their bicycles down the road. Out of curiosity, and my need to fill this space on the interwebs, we stopped and asked if we could ask a question. I know. That’s already a question, haha. Fortunately, they were not flip, but all-around nice. I caught a rough yet stereo, recording with my phone, which you can listen to in its entire 10 minutes here…
BT: What are your guy’s names?
Mike: I’m Mike and this is Helen. We started 13 months ago today. 23,000 kilometers on the clock so far. We started in Scotland, Glasgow, went to the Netherlands, then Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Eastern Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Turkey. Georgia. So. Central Asia.
Helen: But then I got altitude sick, even though it wasn’t very high, but we didn’t have time for me to acclimatize. So it’s sort of going through central Asia. We flew to Beijing, cheapest flight we could get, to Siham Chung. So we kind of doubled back on ourselves a bit. And then, down to Vietnam, Saigon into Cambodia to Bangkok all the way down the coast of Thailand and Malaysia and Singapore. We just turned around again and went back to Kuala Lumpar to get our flight to Australia. Then flew to the west coast of America and we’ve cycled from San Diego.
BT: So you got married?
Mike: Yes, two weeks ago in Yosemite Valley in Cooks meadow.
BT: How did you… did you find a justice of the peace?
Mike: My friends a minister, she actually lives in Kentucky, so she flew out to meet us there. And then we had a couple of friends come over. Parents each. Yeah.
BT: You had it all planned out?
Mike: Yeah, we actually started planning it before we left. There was a bit of a gamble, but we figured if we could make it a year on the road and not kill each other, we could go ahead.
BT: Oh, that’s so awesome. Congratulations! Have you guys had many mechanical issues?
Mike: Yeah, but it’s mostly been ok. I mean a couple of things. We’ve been replaced like new drive train, new cassettes. Obviously lots of new chains, but Helen is still on her first set of brake pads.
BT: Brakes. They only slow you down.
Mike: Yeah, just tough. I think I’m on my fourth set of tires
Helen: I think I’m on my second set of tires. But nothing major. Everything’s built to last.
BT: Meeting any nice people?
Overwhelmingly! We were quite concerned that we weren’t going to have enough water as we headed across the 50 here. And just didn’t quite make it as far as we wanted to yesterday. So this guy stopped this morning and was like, hey, guys, need some water? I’ve just been rafting in Utah, and have gallons of water in my van. So amazing timing. Um, but yeah, we have a story per day. China was amazing for that because they just want to give you food and take you home and take care of you.
BT: You guys blogging or anything like that?
Helen: A bit of writing and videoing as much as we can. I haven’t updated since the wedding, so I need to do that soon. Because we’re going east, it’s evereast.co.uk. We’re doing it for a charity, called MIND, they do mental health advocacy and awareness. They do a lot of lobbying the government for approved mental health services and they do awareness campaigns to just try and reduce the stigma within companies. They kind of go into offices and HR departments and stuff. So very, very nice. Very nice.
BT: Well great. Great. Thank you so much for stopping. Bye!
By Jeffrey Stern
Our generation may be bonkers about the “van life”, but what about that bike life?
In this continually overcomplicated, technology saturated world that seems to grow by leaps and bounds with each passing day there is an urge to escape. Escape our screens, our over-connected lives and responsibilities and trade them in for the open road, adventures and explorations of the unknown.
Although the idea of trading in rocketing rent prices across the country for life lived out of the back your Subaru or foam mattress pad in the bed of your Toyota Tacoma sounds appealing, the question of sustainability is clearly evident. Although some people can, and will, it’s hard to imagine spending your whole life living that way.
Believe it or not, for vehicles driven approximately 15,000 miles a year, the average cost of ownership equal around $8,500 per year in 2017, or roughly $700 a month according to AAA. That doesn’t even take into account the initial purchase price, the rising fuel prices and the of course the fact that because everything in the world is getting more expensive that each oil change, or trip to the mechanic gets progressively more expensive (unless of course you know how to change your own oil, but we’re millennials, so that’s pretty much a lost art).
How about investing this saved money in your community? Laying down roots somewhere that feels like home, building a garden, taking pride in your home however big or small it might be. There are so many ways to travel using public transportation with your bike. Once you’ve arrived at your destination, the journey can really begin – and there’s no reason to not enjoy a route home that takes you off the beaten path.
Yes, this $700 per month is unlikely to cover the cost of mortgage to buy a house in most places in the country, but it is a stepping stone. Inevitability over time your car will try to suck the life out of you, not to mention all the cash you have.
Bikes do nothing but give back. They open your eyes to the world around you. New people, places and experiences by bike are without a doubt some of the best connections you can make. The simplest things can become so fascinating with a bike as an integral part of your life.
When have you ever met a bike touring group with road rage, in a hurry to get nowhere fast that won’t stand for anything in their way? I’ll answer that for you: never.
The van life has its perks, don’t get me wrong. Everything self-contained in a vehicle, with complete mobility to go off the grid. The thought is nice, for a time, but there is comfort in feeling settled. What sounds even nicer though, is ditching the car, embracing the beautiful things we already have around us (more is not always better) and riding our bikes more.
A happy medium may be a car share with a few friends. Imagine the money you’ll save, the relationships you’ll foster and freedom you will have; quite literally the best of both worlds. Van, bike and home, now that’s the kind of life I want to live.
Slow Roll Chicago, an organization that uses bicycles as a vehicle for social change, is one of five finalists to potentially receive funding from Delta Emerging Leaders of the Delta Institute. The organization will be pitching the Slow Roll Chicago mobility model in front of an awesome crowd at the BOOST Live Crowdfunded Pitch Fest tomorrow, Tuesday, November 14, from 7-10pm at the Chop Shop & 1st Ward.
From Slow Roll Chicago:
We need YOUR help in order to win the BOOST award!
Please support our bicycle movement by purchasing tickets and attending the BOOST pitch fest event. All the proceeds from ticket sales will go toward funding two initiatives. With each ticket purchased, you get two votes to cast in the pitch fest competition. In other words, you get to decide who receives the funding! Free food and two beer tokens will be available. Please also share this email, encouraging your family, friends and colleagues to attend the event.
Join us tomorrow evening (Tuesday, November 14) from 7-10pm at the Chop Shop & 1st Ward and help support Slow Roll Chicago’s mission to transform lives and improve the condition of our communities, while building an equitable, diverse and inclusive bicycle culture in our City.
Thank you, let’s ride…
The Slow Roll Chicago Leadership Team
(Oboi, Jamal, Romina & Dan)
These shorts look nothing like bike shorts, and that’s what makes them great. Not only do they appear like almost-dressy bottoms and feel like the comfy shorts you’d throw on to hang out around the house, but their versatility makes them the perfect choice for anyone who rides their bike to get places and doesn’t want to take a change of clothes.
Layer them on top of a chamois for the ride. Strip the chamois off and you have yourself a comfortable pair of shorts to wear to the party, jump in the lake, hit up the gym or maybe even wear to work.
The wide, stretchy waistband is soft and comfortable, and an elastic drawcord keeps everything up. The polyester/spandex blend fabric is moisture-wicking, quick-drying and feels good against the skin even when wet. This has made them a great do-it-all garment option for ride-paddle-ride adventures, a summer favorite of mine.
Perforated side panels offer extra venting, and zippered pockets on the side of each leg are the perfect size for a cell phone, small wallet, key or other small essentials. I love the location of the pockets – I found it more comfortable to ride with items in the side of the shorts than I do in front or rear pockets.
With a 6 inch inseam, the Flurry falls mid-thigh and is baggy enough to offer ample room for leg movement but fitted enough to be flattering. Another bonus – the fabric doesn’t seem to hold odor, so these shorts are an excellent daily driver that can be worn a number of times before washing is necessary.
I’m generally a fan of most Club Ride apparel, and these shorts are no different. They quickly became a favorite for their comfort, functionality, versatility and subdued style.
Sizes: XS, S (tested), M, L, XL
More info online at clubrideapparel.com
Words by Morgan Fletcher
Morgan Fletcher lives in Oakland, California, in the hills above the city. He works in San Francisco’s Financial District, as a manager at a software company. The 46-year-old Philadelphia native is in the office about eight hours a day, but he’s in front of a computer, or a mobile phone, working the shoulder hours of the day. It’s probably a nine-hour day, on average. His daily commute is a phone-free, laptop-free zone. So is the ferry. —Ed.
When I leave the house for work is often impacted by other duties, as father and husband. I’m a parent to two teenagers, and my wife works. In my perfect bike commuting day, I’m up at 6 a.m., on the bike at 7:30 a.m., down the hill eight miles and 1,000 feet to the Jack London Ferry Terminal. I’ll ride the ferry with my friends to the San Francisco Ferry Building, arriving around 8:45 a.m., and get to the office by 9 a.m. My office is a short distance from the Ferry Building, less than a mile, but traffic and architecture in that part of San Francisco are dense, so it does feel like a bit of a journey. I’ll step away from my desk at 5:15 p.m. After socializing on the ferry—I always sit outside, and I always see some of the same friendly faces—I’ll be at Jack London Ferry Terminal by about 6:20 p.m. From there it’s anywhere from 50 minutes to an hour and 20 minutes home, depending on whether I go the short or long ways. My morning commute takes me through narrow, hill-side, quiet roads down to big, busy streets, and the pattern is reversed in the evening. I have some grass and dirt options, to escape the asphalt, and my route to the ferry in the morning is creative.
The primary challenge of bicycle commuting—like anywhere else—is safety. The Bay Area has a very dense population, separated from most destinations by water. Everyone is in a hurry at commute time, distracted and late and completely self-centered. This all makes sense. No one’s looking out for the other commuters, and most of the cars have a single occupant and you, whoever you are, are in the way. As a bicycle commuter with over thirty years of experience riding to school and then work, I’ve developed a sense for how to safely navigate my commute. I’m a law-abider. It’s rare that I’m so late for work or home as to feel the need to not stop at a stop sign or red light.
The secondary challenge is darkness. I do not like bike commuting as much during the winter, and I hate Daylight Savings Time. I spend a lot of time cold, dark and wet on my bike, in the winter. “Real bike commuters” keep riding through the winter. Bleh.
The benefits of commuting are so many. I get great exercise, I get to train for my favorite activity, which is bicycling! I have time away from screens, grumpiness, drama and doubt, where my body and brain are energized and moving with a purpose, so that my thoughts can flow for tens of minutes at a time uninterrupted, and I can think and feel the wind on my face.
I’m burning the good food I ate, and not the dollars in my wallet, and I’m not making my expensive car an even more depreciated asset when I’m bike commuting.
I’m not frustrated in traffic, but flowing through two great, big cities efficiently and with style while I commute. I see things that others might not see, moving at just the right speed, with no walls around me.
I get to take a boat across the most beautiful bay, below bridges and among container ships, and I get to talk and laugh with friends while I’m doing it. I sometimes take the BART train; the ferry is vastly superior. I arrive at my destination happier and more refreshed than when I left. The sunsets are incredible.
Since I’ve never been a car commuter, I tend to be very economical with my bike spend, while at the same time being an absolute bike snob. I love bikes, and I’m always one bike away from having the right set of bikes. I buy parts used, do my own mechanical work, and take advantage of deals when available. We still drive enough, with kid transport and my wife’s commute, that I’m keenly aware of what a car costs to maintain. I’d guess I’m ahead by maybe $5,000 – $7,000 a year. Hard to say.
I’m always happy to have company, but there are very few people with whom I can share the bulk of my commute. I roll out from the ferry in the evening with a group of friends, and also some strangers. This “critical mass” of three to five riders provides some safety we wouldn’t have as single riders, especially when it’s dark and we have lights on. This first mile from the ferry is a good time for conversation, providing we’re paying full attention to the cars, pedestrians and bikes around us. Sometimes I’ll run into a friend on the longer climbs and the longer ways home, and we’ll ride together. I like the time alone on the bike.
I’ve hit deer twice on my bike commute home. Both times were at night. The first time, I stayed upright and the deer went flying. The second time I wasn’t so lucky, and we both crashed hard.