Hello Ladies & Lady-Lovers! I’m back and refreshed after tagging along on Mountain Bike Oregon this past weekend.
An aside: As someone relatively new to mountain biking, I have to encourage Ladies a little hesitant to ride off-road to push past fear and give it a try. Meandering through the forest on two wheels feels like moving meditation, and the sights you’d otherwise not see, and animals that cross your path, make the experience magical. Handling comes with time and miles, and till you’re ready for root drops and rougher terrain, there are tons of beginner and intermediate trails to choose from.
So as I sit sipping my morning caffeinated beverage (these guys are some of the best coffee roasters in PDX) reflecting on three days of camping and beautiful riding in the mountains around Oakridge, OR, I find I’m left with three lessons:
1) To improve handling, LET GO
2) Talk to strangers
2) Gin is not an appropriate sports beverage
As a Lady only recently dipping a toe into the MTB world, I was excited to expand my skill set on some of the gorgeous central Oregon trails I’ve heard so much about. I watched videos, read reviews, and made a mental list of which rides I’d be giving a go. I’m currently training for an amazing adventure tentatively scheduled for next spring (stay tuned…) for which I not only need to hone my off-roading skills, but need to purchase a well-fitting, trek-specific mountain bike.
Mountain Bike Oregon includes shuttles to the top of trails, a beer (& hopped cider!) garden, meals included, and what I needed most: access to demo bikes. I’ve only ridden an older steel Schwinn mtb named Bumblebee, who handles quite wonderfully, but I needed to get a feel for rides beyond what I’ve tried. Gearing? Wheel size? Never-ending, not-necessarily-needed accoutrements? I had no clue what worked for me, and I hoped this trip would give me a better idea. Oh, and the ability to improve my steeper, cliff-edged, curving, root-dropping, sketchier descents which I heretofore tended to hike-a-bike through.
The trip was phenomenal, it was an adventure, and all but one goal was attained. I feel fulfilled, and I can’t wait to head back out there to ride some more.
Having been lucky enough to have raced a wee bit of Portland cyclocross (thanks to the urging of a phenomenal friend and a group of absolutely wonderful people. I suck, by the way, but it’s really fun!), I had previously learned, with eyes wide and stomach in mouth, that the sketchiest of descents requires release – you have to stare down impending-maiming, take a deep breath, go relatively limp, shift your weight back, and just go for it. The slower you go, the more you try to brake, the more you hold on, the more likely you are to flip head-over-handlebars or crash in other equally damaging ways. Trust your bike, it will ride over most rocks and roots and mud if you keep your speed. Slow down and you’ll fail to gain needed momentum to overtake obstacles. It feels similar to technique for effectively skiing moguls.
This technique was never more apparent than on my trips through North Fork, an intermediate Oakridge trail, where the let-go approach sort of reversed itself. This lesson on descents is now ingrained in my muscle fibers, but I never knew that CLIMBING applied the same concept until I rode parts of this trail. Overtaking a bolder on an uphill? Relax and keep pedaling, and for gods sake, follow through. You’ve grunted your front tire up and over – good for you! But you have an entire second tire that needs to clear the rock. This is where the gearing on the Niner bike I demoed became essential. Keep the gearing low, release your fear and hesitation, and just keep pedaling. NO MATTER WHAT. My only crashes this weekend? T-tipping over (and down a small cliff) as I failed to get my back tire up and over something large, all because I hesitated out of fear that I wouldn’t make it.
And so the lesson that applies not only to riding, but to almost everything in life – relax, believe in yourself, and move towards what makes you afraid. You’ll never know what you’re capable of if you don’t try, and you’ll never expand your world and yourself if you don’t loosen your grip.
TALK TO STRANGERS
Stranger danger! We’re molded by our culture to be afraid of, well, everything outside of our immediate family and friends and gated neighborhoods. But this is a large part of the beauty of traveling and exploring by yourself – you’re FORCED to interact with people you don’t know. And guess what was reinforced for me this weekend? Most people are good and respond to openness and kindness. This opening to the unknown is what I like to call “adventure”, whether it’s in the kitchen, on a trail, or in social interaction. This is what makes life fascinating and engaging and growth-producing throughout the years you’re lucky enough to have. If you were raised in a bubble-wrap-suburban childhood like myself, openness takes time and mindful practice to cultivate. But it’s worth it – it will change nearly everything about your life.
I encountered some absolutely lovely people that made this trip for me. Some from Oakridge (make sure to check out the amazing Ladies working over at Lion Mountain Bakery if you’re in town), some from California, some from Portland, some originally from New Zealand & the UK, some from Australia (and yes, the rivalry between the two is more than Flight of The Concords fodder), and all from varied backgrounds and age groups.
I owe it all to volunteering (the Nossa Familia coffee family is molto bene – check out their brews if you get the chance) and to accidentally hanging my hammock within the camp of a group of guys that welcomed me into their chats and beer garden jaunts when I wasn’t being anti-social with my reading and napping (the latter mostly due to gin…). They made me laugh, their personalities and guitar collections blew me away, and I truly hope to stay in touch with them. My weekend wouldn’t have been the greatness it was without all of these people, and I wouldn’t have met any of them if I hadn’t exited my comfort zone of solitude to talk to people I didn’t know.
GIN IS NOT AN APPROPRIATE SPORTS BEVERAGE
And finally, to the lesson of re-learning lessons. I spent most of my college years as a partier (and high school for that matter). I got great grades, I overachieved, and I got completely blitzed most nights of the week. Life, as it turns out, is more of an un-doing than a becoming – you have to work diligently to un-become the person your hometown, your family, and everyone but yourself has shaped you into. To really know yourself, to really be yourself, you have to figure that shit out on your own by forcing yourself outside of situations and places you’re comfortable in.
The process is particularly challenging if you grew up contorted – creating a habit out of forcing yourself into boxes that were ill-fitting at best. Long ago I acknowledged that I don’t like getting wasted – I’m so much happier taking all of that in moderation, waking up with the sunrise, and getting out to do something physical in the outdoors. Occasional partying? Sure. But on the whole, it’s just not who I am anymore – it was never who I was.
And so I reminded myself of that with gin and delicious cider this past weekend, as did many other painfully hung over riders. Chatting and hanging out with people was amazing! Drinking far too much was not, and was entirely my fault. I should know my limits by now… but once you’ve had a drink it seems like more and more of a good idea to keep on drinking, and old patterns reappear. If I had paced myself and been an adult, I wouldn’t have had the worst hangover I’ve had in a long time (I also could have avoided nearly falling asleep on a bathroom floor and being helped back to my campsite, which in my drunkenness I couldn’t find, by a good Lady Samaritan).
Yah, I embarrassed myself. But I had a great time with my campmates, reminded myself of my priorities, and ensured that I will never again forget the late-onset-drunkenness of gin. Next time I’ll make the same decisions – minus a handful of drinks.
Riding is magical, Oakridge trails are glorious, and people are pretty awesome. This experience was great and I’m on my way to getting a great mountain bike so I can continue to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors in new and sometimes-challenging ways. More than anything, this trip reinforced my gratitude. Gratitude for a working body, the experiences I’ve been lucky enough to have, and the adventures I have yet to experience.
So get out there, Ladies & Lady-lovers! Adventure awaits, and nobody can find it but you :)
PS- The links above have more about the trails in Oakridge. If you missed MBO, head out on your own! The West Fir Lodge is a great B&B at the trail head, or you can head 30 miles down the road to Waldo Lake for camping and a 22 mile, easy-intermediate mtb loop with gorgeous views (plus kayaking!).
Until recently, I was under the impression that helmets could be either stylish or comfortably cool, but not both.
Sports helmets have holes and airflow that provide cooling comfort in the summer heat, but have a utilitarian nature that looks amiss with my biking attire. Gorgeous cap helmets look fabulous but turn my head into a sweaty, helmet-haired sauna. Le sigh – is there really no option that provides both?
Well, after a year of use – from daily commuting to legit, sweat-drenched biketouring through mountains – I can unequivocally say: I’ve found the goldilocks of helmets!
Sahn helmets, designed and made in Vancouver, B.C., make beautiful helmets that breathe. They’re on the pricier side, but the investment is well worth it. I no longer swap out helmets for long-rides, requiring both a stylish and sporty helmet to choose between. I now have one, lovely helmet and I use it for everything. Bonus points for a perfectly shaped and sized visor – it effectively keeps both rain and sun from your eyes.
The investment is worth it, plus you’ll be supporting the lovely small business owners (whom I had the pleasure of meeting at a local trade show – kind, wonderful people) rather than a larger corporate producer.
So strap on some loveliness, head out wherever you’d like, and enjoy your gorgeous, well-dressed ride!
Happy Monday, Ladies & Lady-Lovers!
From a Copenhagen bicycle infrastructure innovation roundup, to electricity-free fridges and naked ladies, below you’ll find some interwebs interestingness to start out your week.
1) COPENHAGEN GREEN WAVES & MORE
This video gives the rundown of current biking advancements in Copenhagen, including a feature that tells you how fast to ride to get green lights (aka a green wave)!
Mayo – the sandwich staple. Looking for an easy, vegan, delicious option? Put the Vegannaise down and make your own! This article details three recipes for you to try at home. Simple ingredients, plant based, flavored how you like. Enjoy exploring this classic anew!
This article from The Atlantic (a highly recommended read!) details the USA’s wasteful, enormous, worlds-largest fridges and how these are a symptom of a larger food-transport and waste problem. Interesting insight into how our eating and food buying patterns feed into climate change, and how many foods we chill (like eggs) that don’t actually need it.
Want to escape the energy suck of a traditional fridge? Check out the luddite-loved Mitticool – it’s $50, electricity-free, and effective.
How often do you get to see lovely naked Ladies? Not often enough! The Nu Project is a photography series documenting Women’s bodies in all their naturalness and beauty, encouraging Women to embrace all parts of themselves. The benefits of seeing bodies that resonate with your own are beyond verbal explanation – this is the world before photoshop (despite its uses) messed with Womens’ understanding of our own bodies. The series continues to add photos, and round five for North America is now available for your viewing and empowerment. Potentially NSFW.
And we come to the fascinatingness of the week – another Maria Popova post. This time she reviews “Art & Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time, and Light”, a book that discusses the inextricability of art and science – the importance of creativity and science, art and physics, in advancing one another. From the book:
The faculty we use to grasp the nature of the “out there” is our imagination. Somewhere within the matrix of our brain we construct a separate reality created by a disembodied, thinking consciousness… Consciousness, resembling nothing so much as long columns of ants at work, must laboriously transfer the outside world piece by piece through the tunnels of the senses, then reconstruct it indoors. This inner spectral vision amounts to a mental “opinion” unique to each individual of how the world works… When an entire civilization reaches a consensus about how the world works, the belief system is elevated to the supreme status of a “paradigm,” whose premises appear to be so obviously certain no one has to prove them anymore.
And you can always check out our Lady Editorial from last week, 100km To Freedom – how bikes can change your life… if you let them.
So read, enjoy, then head out and love the ride, Ladies!
There are myriad ways to run away from things.
Shut down emotionally, move to new cities every six months, speak appeasement rather than truth, silence an incoming call, leave an e-mail unopened, float along in just-comfortable-enough circumstances. Regardless the modus operandi, you find a way away from whatever it is that urges you to turn and run.
For a significant portion of my life, for a significant amount of reasons, I was the queen of running away. Switch majors, move to a new town, sink further into a not-quite-right relationship.
Risk of exposing whoever-it-is that I was – to myself and others – was quickly quashed in one way or another. And for a time, this pattern worked for me. It kept me comfortable, it prevented a rattling of cages I’d rather not open, and it allowed the conceptions of myself and my world created in the image of my parents and an ill-fitting hometown to remain intact.
But that’s the thing about avoiding reality and inconvenient truths: they don’t go away, and at some point you must choose to face them or cling ever-more-tightly to an inauthentic life. And living a life that isn’t your own? It’s a lonely existence. How can you really connect with anything if your can’t connect with yourself?
Well, at some point, I realized something was amiss. I couldn’t put it together, but I knew I needed something… an experience, an adventure, a break from my routine.
I never truly chose to face myself.
I just rode my bicycle 500 miles.
I still remember the 2×2 advertisement in Adirondack Sports & Fitness. I’d picked up the free local newspaper from a wire bin at a local eatery in upstate New York during year two of forcing myself through this-might-not-be-right nursing school. I’d seen several other ads for marathons, trail runs, even a 62 mile bike ride. “Those sound like a challenege, but I don’t know… They don’t seem like enough,” I remember feeling.
Enough of what? I don’t know. I just know that when I saw an ad on one of the final pages of the paper with a cartoon pig riding a bicycle for an event called “The Great Big FANY Ride”, I felt drawn to read more.
F-A-N-Y: Five hundred miles Across New York.
“FIVE HUNDRED miles? I can do that!”
Nevermind I hadn’t ridden a bicycle since I was a child, that I no longer owned one, that my fitness routine was primarily composed of napping, nor that the event was just over 2 months away. “I can do this. I need to do this.” I felt empowered by the very idea of attempting something so epic – something so entirely outside of my comfort zone. Without further thought of what it meant, I decided right then I was going to do this ride, and that I would finish. I signed up and paid the entry fee that day.
Next step: buy a bike.
Fast forward a handful of years, and the bike – Lady Steed – that original bike that carried me through excitement, frustration, pain, sores in all sorts of areas, repair-caused pinch-flat embarrassment, joy, and every other imaginable emotion and sensation that unearths itself during the physical release of endurance events has now ridden roads and mountains throughout the country, including those original life-changing 500 across the beautiful state of New York, racking up mile upon mile upon mile of self-propelled experience.
What I learned during that ride and those that followed wasn’t immediately clear, but what you feel with complete clarity is a shift – something significant cracks open.
While I’m in the saddle, I feel a kind of freedom I’ve never known before. I can go anywhere, I can see any place. Boundaries of all kinds lose their solidity. If you put in the effort and, more importantly, really believe in yourself, all is possible. That feeling of self reliance, even in the beginning when it was mixed with a healthy dose of doubt, is incredibly liberating. It’s life changing.
And so, as the pieces have fallen into better fits and lessons have settled into place, I can now see that riding my bike, riding it for more miles than I knew I could, brought me a sense of self that I couldn’t access through habits and ways of living I’d previously relied upon.
I found myself by running away. By running away towards something.
And so we arrive at now, where I’ve dedicated a significant portion of my life to bringing other Women along on rides they never thought they could accomplish. To providing a safe and welcoming entry point to the awesomeness of disproving self-doubt.
This year was the second annual Women’s 100 – a metric century bike ride started by Rapha, the bicycle accessory company. Women all around the world join together in riding 100km the same day as a Tour de France stage of the same length (a race that still lacks Women riders). Rapha is awesome for bringing this ride into existence, but the ride feels somewhat inaccessible to Women entering the bike world – it’s more for Women already racing and riding hard in the high-end gear Rapha produces.
So while a ride has launched from the Rapha headquarters in my city each year (an awesome ride with awesome, fast, relatively experienced Ladies), I’ve led a separate ride for Women who would normally hear “62 miles” and laugh at the sheer implausability of traveling that distance utilizing anything but a car.
That implausibility isn’t really about the distance – it’s the disbelief that you can accomplish something like that, especially in your current noodly-legged state. But as I have shown myself, that doubt is baseless, and proving it so is a magical experience.
The ride took off this year from the same location as last year, Ristretto on Williams (a wonderful coffee shop and roastery), with myself and a handful of others – experienced and not. The majority of Ladies rode further than they ever had before, putting foot to pedal for an adventurous tour of swimming spots, farms, beer-on-tap cycle shops (thanks, Cycle PDX!), street mandalas, almost-there tea, and we-did-it drinks. Sometimes the miles passed without notice, riding abreast immersed in each other’s company. Sometimes the smallest hill felt like hell incarnate.
It was the littlest taste of how things like this, pushing yourself like this, can change everything if you let it. It was a taste of freedom and happiness and the rolling hills of life and love and recreating yourself. It was an experience, and one every Lady should have the chance to be a part of.
And so we will ride next year. By mountains, by cities, by cows and random scenery. We will ride for the try of it. We will ride for ourselves.
And with that, I leave you for the week, Ladies. The featured photo for this post shows the brave and wonderful Women who joined our ride this year. Thanks to everyone who came, and hopefully we’ll see you next year.
Here’s to riding! May you find the ride that changes your life – may you find a ride completely your own :)
1) Physically separated, one direction bicycle facility*
2) Goes where “people want to be” (directly to commercial store fronts)
- Make it wider – riding a bike, unlike driving, is a social activity. It’s nice to be able to ride abreast
- More greenery :) never enough nature
- Continue the separated lane – dumping into traffic and disconnected networks are no bueno
* Why I don’t like two-direction facilities, even when they’re physically separated: accommodating space for both directions means each lane tend to be narrower; constant caution – as people pass, etc. coming towards you – makes riding less leisurely and less enjoyable
I once relegated this patchouli staple to the bullshit pantry - it says it’s health food, but it’s really just sugary oats.
Well, after years of shunning my inner food-hippie, I’ve found common ground with granola, and now I love the stuff.
The key to my crunchy enlightenment? Making it myself.
I have to give a disclaimer – the recipe credit is partially given to an ex of mine. He introduced me to it, then I just made it better. Regardless the origins origin, I now have a recipe that’s so tasty I snack on it throughout the day.
For trails, tours, or just plain-old underwear-and-NPR breakfast, here’s the granola recipe to end all granola recipes (in my humble opinion).
- 3 cups rolled oats
- 1/2 cup PECANS
- 1 cup walnuts
- 3/4 cup shredded coconut
- 1 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
- 1/2 – 1 tsp nutmeg (depending on desired nutmeggy-ness)
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tbsp ground flax seed
- 2 tbsps water
- 1/3-1/2 c maple syrup
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup raisins
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
2. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk flax seed and water together, then add maple syrup, oil, and salt, mixing until well integrated.
4. Combine wet & dry ingredients. Spread a thin layer onto baking sheet.
5. Cook for 45-60 minutes, or until golden, stirring every 20-30 minutes.
6. Remove from oven, add raisins, and let cool.
Embrace your granola-love, Ladies, and keep enjoying the ride!
(Welcome, Ladies and Lady-Lovers, to a new weekly blog segment: Tried & True! I’ll be providing product reviews based on experience, and only those worth sharing make the cut. From biking gear to outdoors equipment to housewares – if it’s awesome, I’ll let you know about it! Suggestions for items you’d like me to try? Get in touch and I’ll give ‘em a whirl!)
Whether bike-touring, backpacking, or otherwise getting lost, this Lady’s luxury of choice is a hot cup of something in the morning. Nestled in the woods, nursing a mug of coffee or tea before departing on epic adventures? Nearly nothing rivals it :)
The only set-back to my morning routine has been weight. Carrying a french press is doable for leisurely trips, but climbing mountains at higher elevations? Those added ounces add up.
And so, during my most recent adventures, I was incredibly pleased to discover these: Blue Lotus Masala Chai Mix packets (17 cup Stand Up Pouch).
They come in a number of flavors, but the Traditional Masala is particularly gustoso!
Not only is the packaging resealable, brewing up to 17 cups, and the mix simple to reconstitute (just add water – no steeping required), but they even include a little bamboo spoon for measuring and mixing! It made for a relaxed and spicy morning on the trail and energized me for a successful summit bid.
Do you have a trail or touring luxury? If so, what’s the one thing you bring along regardless of usefulness or weight?
Keep exploring, adventuring, and enjoying life, Ladies!
What a lovely Monday, Ladies! Here are some interesting articles to start off a wonderful week.
In Canada, it’s a three day weekend. The occasion? Celebrating John Graves Simcoe – an army officer turned urban planner. He plotted the amazingly accurate grid lines of cities like Toronto, creating an effective network for the movement of goods and services that gave an edge to the region and continues to shape the city to this day. What a nice and obscure bit of history, ay?
Restore run-down neighborhoods? Provide jobs and useful skills to our most at-need neighbors? Walkable, livable spaces and streets that connect the community, reduce crime, and spread smiles? Businesses implementing a triple bottom line? Yes, please!
Hooray Chicago! The city has green lit the Green Healthy Neighborhoods Plan, a livability and development framework to make Chicago a place people want to be, particularly in areas historically ravaged by poverty & crime. By creating zoning for market farms and rooftop gardening, farming isn’t just for rural America anymore! Additionally, some great groups are getting residents who are in need of skills and jobs immersed in the process. Oh, and one more awesome thing: it’s all based around a giant green space, bikeway, and pedestrian path.
For your next bike touring, bikepacking, or hiking expedition – these ideas are awesome! Turn your Nalgene bottle into an instant lantern? Dryer sheets as bug repellent? Sleeping bag stuff-sack as pillowcase? Lovely :)
3) LIVABILITY LOVELINESS IN BUENOS AIRES!
Check out all the lovely bike, ped, transit, and open space improvements in Argentina’s capital! Great inspiration :) :
Check out another sublime book summary from Maria Popova, this time of the insightful A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit. The book discusses the importance of wading into uncharted territories – for growth, understanding, adventure, and love. As the books says,
Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from, and where you will go.
Have a lovely week, Ladies (& Lady-lovers)!
As a Lady living a simplified life, growing your own food can be a lovely life addition – another notch for your self-reliance tool belt. It’s also a way of connecting with your surroundings and the seasons, which can prove useful on any number of nature adventures, too.
So in the spirit of living an adventurous life – be it in the kitchen, on two-wheels, atop mountains, immersion in new and unique DIY & hobbies, or in your backyard – I present this lovely resource: A personalized what-to-plant guide for your specific location! Courtesy of Mother Earth News.
The bottom of the linked page above has a ton of other useful links for seasoned gardeners and nature newbies alike, including the when to plant app – a great resource you can utilize when shopping for seeds!
And if you’re intimidated by the idea of growing salad fixin’s in your apartment, condo, or small space, this e-book makes it simple and accessible. Noms: no yard required.
Keep exploring, trying new things, and enjoying the ride, Ladies!