Thursday, October 30, 2008

show and tell.

So last week I was again not riding my bike (feel free to judge me) because the Green Building Blitz.... I had to be on Wadamalaw Island at 7am everyday with a whole car full of supplies and somehow the 3 hours it would take me to get there on a bike just didn't seem rational, so a co-worker lent me her car. If you want to see pics from that, check out:

It was a great event and if you are going to drive a car for something, it might as well be something like this. So anyway... I spent a lot of time talking to a variety of people, many of which had seen my blog and wanted to exchange biking stories. I always love hearing about the adventures, seeing the scars, and bonding over similar experiences with a fellow biker. This week, I heard one of the best stories yet. I was talking to one of the guys from charleston green ideaz ( about the evil drivers that harass bikers since I was recently nailed by a half full bottle of coke... which of course I thought was a car hitting me, so I practically jumped off the bridge trying to get off my bike (don't worry, I was fine, just a little pissed off at the redneck in the ginormous truck). So anyway, the greenideaz guys said that one day while bike commuting through a less than nice part of town when he heard a loud noise and then BAM something hit the back of his head so hard it almost knocked him off his bike. When he reached back to feel his head, it was all gooey and he panicked because he was sure he had been shot and that his brains were leaking out the back of his head. Then he looked down and saw eggshell and realized that, no, he was not dying, and yes, he had been the victim of a drive-by-egging. I am pretty sure that he is the first person to be relieved that he had been egged. Awesome.

So when I told this story to a friend, he mentioned that now there is a law against harassing bikers- which is HUGE considering beforehand, you basically had no rights. Check out more info at: If you are wondering if it actually works, have no fear. My friend said that he was sideswiped while biking recently and he memorized the license plate (I have to give him props for remembering to do this), then called it in to the police. They ran the plates, looked up the person, called them and gave them a warning about harassing bikers! Can you imagine how awful/embarrassed/stupid you would feel if a cop called you and chewed you out for clipping a biker! I am going to have to try and stay cool next time someone harasses me and get their plates- haHA, that will teach them. I am still considering keeping tennis ball in my water bottle holder to hurl at cars that get too close or almost squish me when backing out of their driveways.

Either way, I will delight in my once a month outing with Critical Mass when we get to take back the streets for an hour. Check out a pic from last month below:

Tomorrow, we will be biking in full costume- come and join!!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

a day in the life

When people ask me "How is the bike riding going?" I always have this video montage flash in my head of random situations, events, and ridiculous moments and in the end, my answer is usually: "interesting". So this week, if you were to ask me that question... here are the thoughts that come to mind...

1. I am biking across the bridge when I catch a glimpse of something out of the corner of my eye... and it is a pod of dolphins. I watch them for about five minutes as cars rush by, completely unaware, as one by one, each sleek gray animal rhythmically breaks the surface for a breath of air.

2. On my way home one afternoon, with one headphone in and one out, I swear I hear someone talking to me...lo and behold there is a dude biking past me saying: "Is it just me or are there so many more bikers on the road recently?"

3. Crossing the bridge at night when I come up on a homeless man with kind eyes and a long gray beard, his bike covered with all of his possessions. We both have to stop and wait for the cars because there is not enough room for us to pass and so we chat about weather and traffic. When we part ways he tells me to be careful and protect my "young bright light."

4. I am running late to be a guest speaker for 50 college seniors and have to catch the bus because there is no time to bike- but I will be getting back to campus past 9pm, so I need my bike for the ride home. The bus is 10 minutes early, so I am literally chasing it down the highway in a dress on my bike, knocking on the side until it stops (just like in the movies). Ive never used the bike rack, so I fumble awkwardly pulling all the places labeled "pull/push here" while trying to hold my helmet, bag, make-up and wallet- in the end three men get off and we all debate how it works while a bus full of people watch. (Just so you know... you have to squeeze the handle in the middle and then set your bike in the slots. Then pull the bar next to the tires up and over the front tire. Both handles will be hard as hell to get loose- so give it hell.) Of course I forgot my bus-pass, but at that point, no one cared and the bus-driver accepted a high-five instead. I get a small round of applause from some younger guys in the back. So then I sit down, sweaty and wet-haired and have to start putting on my make-up while everyone stares at me. In the end, I arrive on time, with no speech prepared and rock it.

5. I am biking home- the same night as above- and I overhear two men, one white, one black, arguing over racial terms (really one is just yelling at the other). By the time I am close to them, they have finally agree that no one, regardless of color should use words that could be seen as derogatory, but the one man is still really mad. I pull off the road and offer the angry guy a hug. At first he gives me a look that makes me regret stopping, then his face melts into a smile, he starts laughing and accepts my offer. Both men agreed on the fact that you should always accept a hug from a young lady and then conversation quickly changes into talking about women, so I continue my ride home.

That is a week in the life of this biker.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tires, wheels, and rims, oh my!

So a friend of mine pointed out that I have started slacking on my bloggage- which is due in part to the fact that my life is totally bananas right now. I also broke my camera- so I've kinda been waiting to write until I get a new one. All of that being said... I will try and stay on top of things so that all 4 people that read my blog will not be left wanting. :-)

My latest exciting bike news is that I finally got hybrid tires! What the hell does that mean, you say? Well, since I have a mountain bike, I've just been riding on standard trail tires. This means that they have good traction with lots of nobby things that help grip the dirt when you are off road. Tires like these are great for when I am on the greenway or biking on un-even surfaces. For me they have kinda been like training wheels because I am not used to biking on a variety of surfaces and they help keep you stable. The downside to this type of tire is that you go really SLOW on the road. Since I am commuting about 10-15 miles a day, this can get pretty annoying, so I went to the Bicycle Shoppe and asked what my options were. They suggested a hybrid tire that is designed for mixed use- which means it is smooth in the middle, but has ridges on the outer edge. Since they were $20 a piece I decided to wait on it and look around online.

So, yeah. This is when I realized that I know nothing about my bike. I like to think of myself as a do-it-yourself kinda gal, but good lord, I was lost when the websites staring asking me questions about hub and rim width, hub axle size, and wheel diameter. While this information is in no way super complicated, my brain is so jam packed with LEED rating systems, green entrepreneurial theories, and sustainable development concepts that I opted to leave these choices to the professionals.

I called up the bike shop again and they told me to head on in. So I biked on over, excited about how fast I was going to be biking home. They put my bike up on a stand and started teaching me what all the specs were that I had been asked online (everyone there is super helpful). But then we realize they didn't have my tire in stock, so we had to order it. My consolation prize: "Well at least its a good work-out with your mountain bike tires." Because thats what I really need right now. A work-out. Then one of the guys invited me to bike the Cooper River Bridge. This always makes me laugh because people really think I am an athlete, but they have NO idea how pathetic I am. (For those of you not familiar with the bridge... it is huge and in my eyes, akin to a small mountain... needless to say my CAR used to have trouble coming back over it from Mt. Pleasant). I would be the girl WALKING my bike over the bridge. Nothing but love for those of you that are able to bike over that bad boy AND enjoy it... just don't expect me up there anytime soon.

When my tires finally came in, they put them on for me, filled them up, fixed my crusty break-line (due to the fact that I am horrible bike owner), and sent me off for a test drive. Maybe I had built it up too much in my head, but I didn't immediately notice a difference....until I looked down at my speedometer and noticed that I was going 25 mph without really trying too hard. Sweet!! I wish I could tell you how fast I could go coming down the back side of the 61 bridge on my way home, but my speedometer was so overwhelmed with my speediness that it kicked the bucket. All I know is that the ride is a lot smoother and definitely much faster.

Take home lessons: hybrid tires rule and so does the Bicycle Shoppe!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

bus stop blues

Hurry, Hurry up and wait
Is that my bus coming up the road
or is that just the 20 running late?

Nice! This stop has a bench AND a cover,
but wait the shade has been taken
by four screaming kids and one tired mother.

The sun is beating down hot and bright
and the fumes from the cars
are making my head feel light.

Conversations ebb and flow
breaking up the silence
as our waiting party grows.

The city's perfume is an awful mix today;
I am overwhelmed with the acrid smell
caused by cigarettes, sardines, and decay.

Jazz quietly drifts through the air,
as I fight off angry fire ants
and an old lady fixes her fake hair.

We all lean forward at the sound of the brakes,
here comes our bus
a cloud of exhaust in its wake.

Loose change jingles in peoples tired fingers
as everyone gets antsy about the
storm cloud that lingers.

I sit next to an older woman holding bright yellow flowers,
shes a prayer warrior and tells me that in the end,
God has the power.

A drunk man with dimples sits down in urine soaked pants
and tells me he'll fix his saxophone someday,
if he ever gets the chance.

We all talk about our throwaway society and how no-one cares,
and in two stops time we all agree that people rather
buy something new that pay for the repairs.

Settling into silence, I can see my stop come into view,
Pull the cord, thank the driver, and
my journey is almost through.

I step off the cool bus and into the humid air,
and look to the sky cursing
at the light rain that soaks my hair.

Its one more day on the bus, always different than the others
I am already wondering what the next ride will be like
and what new things the journey will uncover.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

why bikes are safer than cabs

So, this story isn't directly related to biking- but it is just one more example of why sometimes it is safer to just bike home than rely on four-wheeled transportation. Last night I went to a wedding with a friend; it was black-tie, over 200 guests, and had the biggest bar I've ever seen at a reception. We partied until the bride and groom left and then headed to Moe's Crosstown for some much needed french fries. After walking back to my friends house I realized that I was on the totally wrong side of town and had to get home to walk my dog. So I hailed the good-ole "____" Cab for a ride home (I dont want to get anyone in any trouble) . When my ride pulled up, I actually laughed out loud. It was a complete beater 80s station wagon with one headlight and the cabbie hanging out the window rapping to me. Awesome. So I hopped in and the first thing the guy says is "Yo girl, sorry I'm late, my car keeps cutting off... damn you looking good, where you been tonite?" I replied with: "Umm. Thanks? But seriously, you are really giving me a lot of confidence in my ride home". And that was how our journey began. I started asking him questions about his alternator and battery and then programmed my awesome mechanics number into his phone. The whole time we are driving the car is revving really high RPMs, the gas gauge is doing backflips, and the radio is cutting in and out (which he had switched to a station he referred to as "white people music").

When my house came into view I felt so much relief, but it was too soon for celebration. When we pulled into the driveway he realized he had no change, so we had to go a gas station. The first two were closed and next thing I know we are on roadtrip through West Ashley. During this whole thing I realize he is from my hometown and he went to one of the my rival highschools about five years ahead of me. Ahh- small world. When we finally found a station that was open, he gets out of the car and I realize that the this whole time he has had a Miller High Life 40 oz. between his legs. haha. (nervous laugher here) I mean what are you suppose to do at this point? He had been driving really well and I felt safer in his cab that alone at the creepy gas station full of guys cat-calling me. So he put some gas in the car, gave me my change and we headed home. The car wouldn't go over 30mph at this point, so we just cruised through neighborhoods all the way back to my place. When we pulled into my driveway, he actually said: "Hey- tell all your friends to call me if they ever need a cab!" Hahahaah. Really? This was his idea of a good impression and an experience that would leave a girl raving about the service?

So next time you want to ask me: "Nikki, do you think its safe to bike in Charleston? Don't you ever get scared?" Just know that I feel much safer on my bike, than with a drunk cab driver in a POS car. The key is staying off the roads late at night when drunk cabbies are on the loose and always wearing a helmet, just in case.