It’s been said that no experience is a true adventure until something goes wrong. In fact, that’s where the idea for this issue began: We wanted to share the most death-defying stories of cycling that we could find. But the more we thought about it, the more we realized it doesn’t take any special skills for things to go wrong (trust me, I know). So instead we turned it around to bring you stories about how to handle yourself when the proverbial poo hits the fan: how to keep your cool, how to get yourself out of a jam and how to avoid one in the first place.
Our longtime columnist Beth Puliti and her husband traveled through Nepal shortly after the devastating earthquake that killed thousands and left most roads impassable—except for bikes. In her extended column in this issue, read how Nepalese cyclists leapt to the challenge to shuttle medicine and supplies over massive mountain passes and help the recovery effort any way they could.
But communities shouldn’t wait until the worst has happened to start working. That’s the theme behind the Disaster Relief Trials, a cargo bike challenge that demonstrates to emergency management agencies how pedal power can be part of the resilience movement. I took part in one of the races and interviewed the founder of the growing series, Mike Cobb.
There are a lot of things than can go wrong on a ride, and while we could never publish an exhaustive list of all possible solutions, we reached out to some experts about what cyclists could do to take care of Number One. From getting lost to getting hurt, we hope these lessons will help keep you safe and ready for anything.
If the worst happens, it can lead to a good story. For our correspondent Chris Reichel, the cross-country bike tour of a lifetime almost came to a tragic end in a field in Kansas. Read how he rode out a tornado in his tent.
Reichel was alone on his ride, and having to face your fears without support can be difficult. But does it have to be that way? Amanda DelCore asked some solo bike-touring experts to weigh in.
Finally, I just want to encourage you all to push your envelope with cycling a little bit. Try to go a bit further, a bit faster or just conquer that hill you hate. Try a type of riding you never have before, or take someone new to cycling for a spin. It’s not until you’re out of your comfort zone that you learn just what you’re capable of and, who knows, you might just surprise yourself. Good luck, and enjoy your Bicycle Times.
- Soma Wolverine
- Yuba Spicy Curry
- Surly Wednesday
- Marin Four Corners
- Fat bike tires
- Packable jackets
- Solar and battery power
Where to ride your bike thru the drive-thru!
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Photos by Howard Draper
This is it. The Big One. The Cascadia Subduction Zone has shifted, resulting in a massive earthquake and tsunami that has devastated the Pacific Northwest. In Portland bridges are unsafe to cross, gasoline is being rationed and electricity is spotty. Luckily the city is filled with cyclists who can transport water, food, medicine and other relief supplies quickly and easily.
Ok, so the massive earthquake that threatens Oregon hasn’t happened yet, but if or when it does the local cycling community will be well prepared thanks to events like the Disaster Relief Trials (DRT). A checkpoint-based bike race with a cargo-hauling twist, it’s designed to promote resilience in the face of the inescapable. In a handful of cities on the West Coast, the event simulates a three-day supply run on cargo bikes (or whatever bike can handle the load).
I joined dozens of other first responders, cargo bike fanatics and curious participants over the weekend for the Portland edition of DRT, which fanned out 30 miles across the city. From a central hub we raced to checkpoints where we picked up supplies including a case of food, a big bucket of water, a wooden pallet and a fragile egg. Along the way we had our manifest checked off and our cargo inspected. Different categories separated payload weights along with e-bikes or team efforts.
Cooperation was key in many respects, often for route finding but also to lift the bikes over a four-foot wall and push them through a difficult uphill dirt section. All the participants were eager to help each other and the volunteers manning the checkpoints were helpful and friendly.
The variety in bicycles represented was astounding. I’ve certainly never seen such a collection of longtails, bakfiets, trailers and trikes. Most were Yubas, Bullets and Surlys but there were also quite a few handmade bikes. I borrowed a beautiful, Portland-made Metrofiets for the event and, despite my limited experience piloting such a craft, it turned out to be a great platform for the day. Even with a massive front end, the bike handled well and shrugged off my 100 pound payload. All I had to do was pedal—and remember that the Shimano Alfine 8 shifter is backward…
Of course, racing full speed around the city with a giant pallet strapped to your bike doesn’t really simulate the hazards and challenges of an actual disaster situation, but it does help the visibility of the cycling community as a resource that should be considered in disaster planning. On hand were emergency personnel and first responders from several local agencies practicing their aspects of communication and operations while a disaster relief information fair was being held next door.
At the end of the day I was exhausted, sore and satisfied. I certainly hope I never have to put any of the experience I gained into use in an actual emergency but, in the meantime, I had a lot of fun.
Click on the magnifying glass to see full-size photos.