Happy Bike To Work Week! While many of you are taking on two wheels to get you to work, you're probably also wondering how to be safe while cycling. When I started cycling in cities like SF, LA, and NYC, I learned quickly that drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists tend to ignore the rules of the road. Every man is out for himself and there are too many distractions but too many hazards to ignore, so when statistics of hit and run deaths are spouted, it's hard to ignore who bears the brunt of it all, cyclists. 

Safety tends to be the number one reason women don't cycle to work. It's rough out there, still it helps to know the rules of the road, to stay safe and sane. Knowing your role as a cyclist in the grand scheme of it all can help prevent an accident for all around you when you are able to be as predictable as possible. If you're wondering how to make your commute more safe, knowing the rules of road can help you get from A to B without an anxious sweat. Here are just a few things to bear in mind and make a habit of when you're heading out on two wheels.
Obey The Rules
Cyclists are required to follow the same rules as vehicles. When riding on the road, cyclists are required to travel in the same direction as the flow of traffic. For those of us living in the United States, this means always riding on the right side as well as utilizing the right side of the lane as much as possible unless it is unsafe to do so. Rolling through stop signs, proceeding through a red light or entering a crosswalk when pedestrians are present are all traffic violations whether you’re in a car or on a bike. To be safe and follow the rules of the road, you should always obey all traffic signals and other signs on the roadway just as you would when operating any other vehicle. There are times when you will need to move to the left side of the lane to avoid an obstacle or to make a left-handed turn. When doing so, it’s important to always yield to approaching vehicles moving at a higher rate of travel to avoid a collision.

Hold your lane
As a cyclist, you have the same rights to the lane as someone driving a car but you also have to follow the same rules as a motor vehicle. If there’s a bike lane, get in it. If not, you have the exact same right to a full traffic lane as a car (although most people ride to the side). Hold a straight line and proceed to claim your space on the road once it is safe. I take advantage of this on narrow one-way streets where it’s hard to stay far enough away from parked cars or narrow curbs. In fact, most cities even allow you to ride side-by-side with another biker in one lane, but most people avoid this.Where you can’t ride
As for sidewalks, if your bike is on one, your feet should be planted firmly on the ground, walking alongside it. And you also can’t ride on highways, so scratch those dreams of weaving in and out of traffic.

Is your bike up to code?
You’re required to have brakes, reflectors, lights, and a bell. If you ride between dusk and dawn, you also need a white headlight and a red taillight. Only children under 14 are required to wear helmets, but do it anyway. Here are some cute ones.

Texting while riding
You want to be as present as possible in the streets, not only as a matter of safety but as a matter of just enjoying the ride. Chatting on your cell or texting is really not a good idea, since it makes you unstable, distracted, and therefore vulnerable. Similarly, when it comes to headphones, one headphone is permitted, but most say better to let the city be your soundtrack.

Learn to communicate
There are basic principles to cycle safety made up of predictable signals. Whether you're turning, stopping, or pointing out a hazard, everyone has their own take on how to execute them. Once you get to know the basics, it makes riding with a group a lot easier once you know how to communicate verbally or with gestures affectively. Always assume someone is behind you and never rely on others to communicate for you. Check out these cycling hand signals that are pretty universal for most clubs, commuters, and group rides. If you're not comfortable taking your hands off the handle bars, calling "right turn" 'slowing" "stopping" "hole left" "on your wheel" "passing left" "car back" is helpful too. Being able to loudly communicate and control your movement will help everyone.

Overall, it’s important to follow the laws first and use common sense and etiquette to making commuting less dangerous and more pleasant for everyone. If you ever feel uncomfortable or see something that’s uncomfortable, get off the bike. You don’t have to gut it out. Get up on the sidewalk, walk the bike, get past the obstacle, and then get back on when you feel comfortable. Sounds simple, but it’s something that never actually occurred to me when fretting about construction zones or navigating through tunnel traffic. There are always going to be distractions and challenges while commuting but keeping vigilant and safe is your first priority when setting out on two wheels.

Images: The Wheel House

Cyclo Femme 2018 + Ride Tips

CycloFemme annually celebrates women by honoring the past and celebrating the present to empower the future of women's cycling everywhere. This year CycloFemme will once again unite women around the world with call to action: Empower the Girl, Ignite the Woman. By joining forces with CycloFemme, donated funds will be raised for World Bicycle Relief to deliver bicycles to female students in Kenya. The goal of this partnerships is to get a bicycle in the hands of a girl to provide options, independence, and access to education. 

If you would like to join a ride in your area, please visit CycloFemme's Ride List.

To help empower girls and women with bicycles, please visit World Bicycle Relief and CycloFemme's  community page. Participation in Cyclofemme is open and free to all while participation in fundraising is optional. I hope you'll consider contributing to World Bicycle Relief or raise awareness of this effort on the day of your CycloFemme ride.
While group rides can be a lot of fun you may not be sure what to do, bring, or wear. Here are just a few tips to guide you on prepping for a ride with CycloFemme.

Prep your bike - to make sure you're bike is ride ready give it a little TLC. Check your brakes, tire pressure, chain, gears, and for any loose parts like your hub, headset, and brackets. You may also want to put on your lights and pack any other fix it items in your saddle bag. Don't wait till the last minute to take your bike in for repairs.

Ride Etiquette - riding with a group can be fun but it can also be dangerous. Knowing the rules of the road and group will keep you and others safe. Hand signals, pace riding, passing, and communication is all part of knowing how to ride safely in a group. Here are videos by Global Cycling Network with a few tips on road etiquette and how to ride in a group. If this is out of your comfort, do know that most rides on CycloFemme will be more social and laid back on trails.

Ride Day Essentials - snacks, water, helmet, saddle bag (tool kit, patches, pump, tire levers, spare tubes), phone, ID, cash, credit cards, insurance card, sunscreen, arm/leg warmers, jersey, gloves, sunglasses, cycling cap, cycling shorts/tights, shoes, plastic bags (water protection for money and phone), socks, wind/rain jacket. Did I miss anything?

Nutrition and Hydration - hydrate well the day before, drink plenty during and after your ride. Eating a solid carb meal hours before a ride will give your body the proper energy it needs. I personally love a good oatmeal with nuts and fruit before a ride and will definitely be packing fruit bars and peanut butter jelly sandwiches. If your ride starts early, best to prepare these the night before so they properly fit in your jersey pockets.

Safety - be visible and stay visible. Watch, listen, obey traffic rules, and communicate. Always keep pedaling. If you fear being dropped ask another rider to stay with you, it's always nice having others looking out for each other.

Make Friends - this is a ride to empower each other, not a competition on who can get the QOM at the top. I think the best things about cycling with other women is that rides are more social, fun, and there is a sense of looking after each other with great care, cheering eachother on the climb and making sure you don't bonk, snacks anyone?

This is a great way to celebrate Mothers Day, make new riding buddies, and bring along any curious or new riders interested in cycling. I'll be leading CycloFemme ride in Mahopac with our local women's cycling group En Route - Hudson Valley Women's Cycling on Saturday. I'm hoping to meet new people and followers I've known over social media for some time, it's always nice to do so. Happy CycloFemme!

Photo courtesy: CycloFemme, Bicyclists

Bike To Work Challenge Without Breaking A Sweat

With Spring full on TRANSPORTATION ALTERNATIVES is bringing back the annual Bike to Work Challenge  for Bike Month starting May 1! This year TRANSPORTATION ALTERNATIVES will also be hosting a Bike To Work weekly hashtag challenge. The staff pick of the week will be featured on their social accounts and win a free year of Individual-level TransAlt membership, plus a TransAlt cycling cap! While most of you know that biking to work is the most noble way to get yourself to work, it's not always so easy to look your best when you arrive to the office so I've put together a couple of tips to help you get your Bike To Work Challenge without breaking a sweat on so you can win this!

To compete, tag TRANSPORATION ALTERNATIVES in your photo on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook with the week’s hashtag*. Winners will be announced Tuesday evenings starting May 15. The schedule for the challenge is as follows:

May 7 - 13: #ThisIsWhyIBike — Show us why you bike to work.
May 14 - 20: #WhatsInMyBag — What are your on-the-road essentials?
May 21 - 27: #BikeCommuterProblems — Encounter any roadblocks on your way to work?
May 28 - June 1: #BestBikeView — Share your favorite scenic sight from your commute

Without further ado, here are some tips for you to cycle to work without worrying about arriving sweaty and gross. Enjoy now that you have some tips to help you stop making excuses.
Pack Smart
This one's a no-brainer, but there's a smart way to pack the right stuff for work: Get a good pannier like Po Campo's Bergen Pannier or basket to hold your stuff so you don't break a sweat or hurt your shoulders while hauling your goods on your back. Speaking of backs, you also don't want to wear a backpack where you may soak your clothes. Some items to cary are cleaning wipes, deodorant, a brush and some makeup to freshen up before you change.

Keep a low-maintenance hairstyle
Helmet head and a sweaty hairline will bust your hair do, but if you keep your hair in a sleek ponytail or bun, and bring some dry shampoo to keep it from looking greasy, you don't have to look like you just rolled out of bed. Ask your stylist to give you a cut that's easy to pull back or wear straightened for when you bike. Brit & Co also has 19 ways to style your hair under a helmet. Also carry a comb or brush with you to revive your style when you reach your destination

Pedal slower: 
Your commuting time is more predictable by bike. If you can, choose a route that is slower, less congested, and shaded with trees to help keep you cool and on time. Allow enough time to take it easy while you ride; going slower means sweating less, and you'll thank your slowpoke pace for a cleaner day at work. Make sure though that you give yourself some time before work to cool down and drink plenty of water!

Sign up for a gym close to work 
If you're an early riser and like to work out before work (like I used to be!) Use the showers and locker rooms at the gym closest to your work, and you can look as if you never rode your bike at all. The bonus is that your bike ride counts as your morning workout, too. 

Take the bus to work and bike home 
If you need to look your absolute best at 7 a.m., then just bring your bike to work on the bus or subway and ride home. Most public transportation allows passengers to bring bikes on board (or put them on the front of the bus).

Biking to work doesn't have to be a full work out if you do it smart. Hopefully these tips will give you the tools to start commuting by bike and hopefully having you winning TRANSPORTATION ALTERNATIVES Bike To Work Challenge!

Images 1. Pinterest / 2. Po Campo

A Guide To Clipping In

If you're curious about clipless pedals just know that learning how to clip in is a rite of passage among cyclists. For one, it requires a financial commitment of buying special shoes and pedals. More importantly, it attaches you quite literally to your bike. Which is a good thing because it increases your pedaling efficiency, letting you generate power as you pull up as well as when you push down. Clipless pedals can reduce the risk of injury by keeping your foot in the optimal position on the pedal. And for most cyclists, they are far more comfortable (and often safer) than toe clips that strap your foot to the pedal. However, being clipped in for new timers can be pretty nerve wrecking and it doesn't really need to be that way. Here are some tips to help you get comfortable with the idea of going clipless.

One thing to know is that there are many types of clipless pedal systems and brands. Many clipless pedal systems are highly adjustable and can be set so the spring action takes very little pressure to release and free you from the pedal. That said, 100 percent honestly, you will very likely topple over once or twice during your learning curve with clipless pedals. Everyone does. It’s a bit embarrassing, but a right of passage that doesn’t last very long before you get the hang of it. But it is important to practice in a safe place like a parking lot to get the hang of it before motoring down the road.

Follow your pedal manufacturer’s instructions to set your cleat tension so entry and exit are as easy as they can be. Some brands and models have no release-tension adjustability, so ask before you buy. If you’re unsure about anything, stick around the shop and have them assist you with the setup. The shop also can install the cleats to the bottoms of your shoes with special thread-locking grease that will help keep the screws—and hence the cleats— from coming loose, as well as help you position your cleats correctly so your pedaling position and alignment are correct.
Step In
Once they’re set up, practice getting in and out of your pedals. Prop yourself up on your bike where you can hold on to a stable surface like a railing or wall, and then step in to the pedal by positioning the cleat at the pedal and pressing down until you hear the telltale “click” of the attachment being made. Now clip in with the other foot and pedal backward to get the feeling of being clipped in. If that’s too difficult, you can simply stand over your bike and, with one foot on the ground, clip in with the other.

Twist Out 
Now practice releasing your foot from the pedal by twisting your heel toward the outside, away from the bike. Switch sides. Then step in and twist out again and again until it feels natural. Cruise when you feel comfortable clipping in and out, go for a spin around your neighborhood or on a patch of grass. Practice clipping in and out as you roll. 

Try coming to a complete stop, as if you were riding in traffic. As you slow to a stop, clip one foot out and drop it to the ground just as you normally would. Not feeling that confident yet? Stop next to a tree or telephone pole so you can grab it if you have to. 

Once you feel comfortable clipping in and out as you cruise your neighborhood and stop on a dime, show up at the next group ride looking like an old pro.

My hope is to get you feeling like you 'can do it'. AND YOU CAN! I know many people who were intimidated at first but once they started, they didn't understand why they made it such a big deal! If you decide to go clipless, keep your eyes peeled here as I've got a post coming up all about road cycling SHOES!!

Eco Friendly Cycling Kits + Gear

Happy Earth Day! I'm sure you've seen the slew of posts on why cycling is great for the earth and green products that have you thinking about turning a new leaf in becoming an all around eco friendly bike warrior. But when it comes to cycling gear and kit, even with new products like cardboard helmets and organic cotton bike seats, cyclists are more interested in performance and function than eco-friendly cycling products. As a culture, we want to be difference-makers, but don't know how our products impact the planet when we dispose them. So where are we supposed to begin? Luckily for us, many cycling manufacturers out there are taking steps on our behalf to create products that will keep our planet a bit more sustainable and ethical for the generations to come.

In honor of Earth Day, I’ve rounded up six eco friendly cycling products for your world-saving pleasure. Learn more about them and consider incorporating at least one or two into your ride. Swapping in products like these is a great way for us to show solidarity with this beautiful planet of ours.
Vegan Athletic aims to develop and distribute the highest quality, ethically made and sourced athletic apparel in the world. They use ethical and sustainable practices throughout the entire manufacturing process and have teamed with a number of best practice companies from around the world to help them achieve this standard within their business. From jersey's, bibs, base layers, arm warmers and more, they'll have you looking sleek and riding with confidence knowing your kit is pushing cycling fashion forward to a greener future.

BRANDT-SORENSON Luxury Sport Apparel is proud to offer world-class sustainability for athletes. Americans on average discard approximately 80 lbs. of clothing into landfills prematurely each year due to poor fit, quality or changing trends. Every garment is made-to-measure in their Los Angeles atelier and shipped directly to the athlete. Fit, quality and durability are the key components of a sustainable garment. A single, well made piece can take the place of a dozen fast fashion garments, which often are discarded prematurely into landfills. The greatest social and environmental impact BRANDT-SORENSON can make is through quality. There are no magic sewing robots, and clothing is labor intensive.

Klean Kanteens products are designed to replace a single-use alternative or improve on an existing solutions in the market that may not have considered end of life, recyclability, disassembly, versatility, modularity, easy cleaning and materials safety. By replacing plastics with their steel lifetime products, you're making a difference that directly (and positively) impacts the planet. Not only do they create the highest quality reusable products, they work hard to bring benefit to the people and places they touch—and do everything they can to keep single-use waste from trashing the world.

Thousand knows that helmets are an age-old industry with limited planet-friendly options—and they want to change that. They use environmentally-friendly alternatives, track the origin of their materials, and use manufacturers with integrity. With direct-to-consumer packaging, they've managed to reduce cardboard usage by more than 50%. Fun fact: one way they were able to do this is by designing helmet boxes as shippable cartons- helping minimize waste and deforestation. Their program focuses on 3 main areas - US Renewables + Energy Efficiency, Amazonian Basin + Brazil Avoided Deforestation, and International Wind Energy focused in East Asia.

Giro's Silo Helmet is completely recyclable, composed of E-PLA foam within the shell, offering the same measure of protection in a compostable form. The straps and webbing are made from coconut fiber. When it comes time to retire the Silo, break it up. No part of it will end up in the trash bin. A very good, eco-friendly, helmet. 

Pixio by  Rydon; these little illuminators are solar-powered, meaning every time you go for a daytime ride you're powering up for after hours. On top of that, a little solar panel on top is constantly collecting energy, and apparently it just takes five cloudless days to power up again. Once they're on, you need a special, Pixio-specific tool to take them off, meaning that you'd have to get super industrious to steal them—and after all, most thieves are looking for an easy get. Definitely beats having to replace batteries or usb chargers that are impossible to recycle.
Green Oil bike cleaning products do exactly what it says on the tin, it is 'green oil.' Where most lubricants and cleaners are petroleum based and use many different man-made chemicals for varying applications. Green Oil products are 100% plant-based and PTFE free. All the products are made in the UK, use recycled bottles, and are 100% biodegradable. There's lots of interesting information on about the oil based products we use on our bikes and how we can protect our water ways from polluting oils. And while others may claim to do the job of keeping your bike clean and well oiled, these products actually do the job just as well as other high rating bike cleaning and  bike lubricating products.

Do you have a favorite eco-friendly cycling brand? Tell us about them in the comments!

Earth Day: 5 Ways To Go From Bike Warrior To Eco Warrior

I've got a serious crush on Mother Nature, but whenever April 22 comes, I am always stumped as to the best ways to get my Earth Day on. While cycling is one great way to reduce our carbon footprint, I'm always looking for more ways to do some good at home for the planet. With the thought of living an eco-friendly lifestyle, I've incorporated some practices into my lifestyle that I've practiced over the years. So, to help us craft an eco warrior game plan off our bikes, I've turned to some do-gooder secrets that I've implemented over the years that will have you thinking of living a more green lifestyle. Here are 5 ways to get your Earth Day on.

1. Reusables:
Plastic bags and bottles account for a drastic amount of oceanic and public waterway pollution across the globe. Help keep the ocean and your city clean by curbing your single bottle and bag use all in one swoop. Some grocery stores even reward you for shopping with a reusable bag. Yay rewards! But you’re probably already someone like me who has a long-life water bottle in their bag and takes canvas totes to the supermarket. However, you're probably thinking about ways to do more. I myself am no eco-warrior or green saint but I am keen to reduce my plastic consumption if I can, and I know food shopping and packaging is where the most one-use plastic gets wasted. Here are the guidelines I set for myself: Carry a reusable coffee tumbler for that daily cup of coffee. Carry a reusable water bottle around with you everywhere. Stuff reusable produce bags and  reusable tote bags into panniers, kit pockets, backpacks, desk drawers and the car, so there’ll always be one handy for shopping. Carry snacks and other food in reusable steel containers. Bye-bye, plastic zipper bags! Keep a set of metal cutlery — fork, spoon, knife and chopsticks — at work.  Reuse plastic takeout containers at eateries. I like to reuse plastic containers for food storage for meal preps or leftovers. The next time you’re out shopping, grab a few reusable bags to place your items in.

2. Shop Local and Organic
Whenever possible, try to eat local, in-season organic produce. Sticking to foods that are grown locally, in your own city or surrounding area, helps to reduce the carbon footprint created by shipping foods from elsewhere. A general rule for where something is grown? The closer to you, the better. It’s equally important to eat organic produce, which hasn’t been sprayed with toxic pesticides and other environmentally detrimental chemicals. Don’t forget to avoid processed foods: processed and packaged foods are often bad for your health, not just the environment. Processing plants are major polluters, and their products contribute to health epidemics like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Choose whole foods that are better for the planet, and better for your own longevity.

3. Alternative transit
Choose to bike, walk, or take the bus or train– leave the car at home, and you’ll be making an easy decision with immediate results. Many people are opting to bike to work, especially when the weather warms up and with initiatives National Bike Month and Bike To Work Day. With bike lanes becoming more prevalent, cities are investing in the necessary infrastructure to make it easier not to own a car. There are over 65 million cyclists in the United States, a number that has risen dramatically over the past five years. Increasing populations have made effective public transportation more necessary than ever, and options like subways, trains, buses, and rapid transit continue to grow. Many new bus routes are even turning to hybrids, solar power, and other eco-friendly alternatives. In the U.S., public transportation saves 37 million tons of carbon emissions every year. Cities are also increasing walkability, with architects incorporating more outdoor and green spaces, and new buildings focused on green infrastructure and community engagement.

4. Switch To Natural Beauty Products
Switch to natural beauty products that you likely use every day from deodorants, shampoo's  + conditioners, body cleansers, sunscreens, moisturizers and fragrances. Here's how you can Build Your Natural Beauty Routine. Don't forget to wash and recycle your empty containers when you are done. Just remember the bleached coral reefs and all the damage our beauty products are causing in these eco systems.

5. Clean With Eco Friendly Products
We might all know that cleaning with chemicals isn't the best for us, yet we still do it. But, it's not too hard to go over to the light side. Say goodbye to your commercial cleaners, and you’ll be saying goodbye to alkylphenol ethoxylates, ammonia, chlorine, lye, formaldehyde, petroleum solvents, and synthetic fragrances, as well. Fortunately, Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Liquid Soap, is great for all cleaning bike related things from your kit to your bike. If you're not using this already, you should be! For cleaning products, I like to use MRS. MEYER'S house hold and laundry cleaners. Everything we wash down the drain comes back to bite us in the butt, especially at my house where we have a septic tank and water well.

Anyone can make these simple changes: they’re easy to implement, and are immediately effective in reducing your carbon footprint. Our actions and choices ultimately make a difference, and we all share the responsibility to do whatever we can to address climate change, big or small.
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