Bike to Everything! A Bike Month Calendar

This story originally appeared in Bike Fun in the Mountain View Voice on May 6, 2014.

This Thursday is Bike to Work Day. You’re ready, right? But Bike Month doesn’t end on Thursday. From Bike to Shop Day to bike programs at the Mountain View Public Library to a bike exhibit at the Los Altos History Museum, there are a host of bike-related activities to get you rolling on for weeks, months and years.

Bike to Work Day – Thursday, May 8

The granddaddy of Bike Month celebrations is back for its 20th year in the Bay Area. Many local companies will host their own festivities, but everyone can celebrate at Energizer Stations set up along popular commute routes. Stop at one for coffee and snacks and a free goody bag, or make a game of it and see how many you can visit along the way. One year my bike commute buddy and I hit five.

The Energizer Station hosted by the Mountain View Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee at the downtown Caltrain station is the place to see and be seen. Last year then-Mayor John Inks rolled up on his bike for a little meet-and-greet. He was gracious enough to smile for my camera.

Mayor at Energizer Station

Bike Away From Work Bash – Thursday, May 8, 6-8 pm

If you’re looking for something fun to do on your evening commute, hop on Caltrain to San Jose City Hall for the annual Bike Away from Work Bash hosted by the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition. Live music, food, and beer. Winona Hubbard of Kidical Mass and I will be taking bike portraits of party guests. This year’s theme is “Dress Like Your Bike.” I have the perfect bouclé jacket and pillbox hat to go with my vintage-style bike.

If you haven’t been to a party inside the rotunda at San Jose City Hall, it’s worth the trip down. A Caltrain bullet will get you to San Jose in 15 minutes and it’s about a 10 minute roll to City Hall on San Jose’s new green lanes on San Fernando St and protected bike lanes on 3rd and 4th Streets.

Bike Portraits Bash

Bike Month at the Mountain View Library – Several Events

Ride to the library for Bike Month and come back with more than books. The Mountain View Public Library is hosting bike skills classes, a theft prevention seminar, and a book bag giveaway for Bike to Shop Day. And they’ve installed a very useful bike repair station out front. Whether you need tips on riding safely, locking your bike securely, air in your tires or your seatpost tightened, the library has what you need.

Patrons who arrive by bike on Bike to Shop Day and show a library card will receive a free book bag. Get a second bag and you can make your own bike panniers, using step-by-step instructions from the library’s Shop by Bike workshop in March. With less than $5 in materials and 30 minutes of time you can get that shopping load off your back and onto your bike rack.

Ride to Library Books

Bike to Shop Day – Saturday, May 17

You should be seeing the Bike to Shop Day posters starting to show up in store windows this week. Twenty businesses in Mountain View are offering discounts and other special offers to shoppers who arrive by bike.

In addition to the library, the list includes: Diddams, Cognition Cyclery, Morocco’s, Posh Bagel, Cascal, Ava’s Market, East West Bookstore, Book Buyers, Books Inc, Dana Street Roasting, Seascapes, Boutique 4, Villa Rouge, Chef Liu, Cijjo, Empire Vintage Clothing, Red Rock Coffee, Asian Box and Peets. Zoom in and click on the merchant map on the Bike to Shop Day web site for special offer details.

Pedal Power: From Workhorse to Wacky Exhibit – through October

Ride down to the Los Altos History Museum for an amazing exhibit of bikes and bicycling history. From a high-wheeled penny farthing to the first pro bike of racer Greg Lemond to custom creations that defy description, you’ll see it all and learn a few things too. The museum is also hosting a Bike to Work Day evening reception from 5-7 pm on May 8.

May is Bike Month Calendar for Mountain View

Thursday, May 8 – Bike to Work Day. Ride your bike to work on the biggest bike commuting day of the year and stop at energizer stations sprinkled all over Silicon Valley along the way.

Thursday, May 8 – Library Bike Stop Fixit Station. Join city council members and city officials for a ribbon cutting ceremony and demonstration of the new bike repair station at the Mountain View Library. 1:15 pm.

Thursday, May 8 – Bike Away From Work Events Continue the fun on your evening commute with parties at Bike Away from Work Bash at San Jose City Hall and the Pedal Power exhibit at the Los Altos History Museum. Both events are free.

Thursday, May 15 – Theft Proof Bike Learn about bike theft and how to prevent it from the Mountain View Police at the Mountain View Library. 7pm. Free. No registration required.

Friday, May 16 – Ladies Night at Cognition Cyclery Ladies, meet other female cyclists, share bicycling stories tips, and learn about upcoming clinics and group rides. Plus sweet cupcakes and sweet door prizes.

Saturday, May 17 – Bike to Shop Day. Hop on your bike for your Saturday errands during this one-day event. Shop at participating businesses for special offers just for shoppers who arrive by bike.

Saturday, May 17 – Kidical Mass. Join families with kids of all ages on this 3 mile ride with stops at local kid-friendly businesses supporting Bike to Shop Day. Starts at 10 am at the Mountain View Library. Free.

Sunday, May 18 – Urban Bike Skills – On the Road. Bring your bike for this on-street class and learn: gears, shifting and cadence, braking and crash avoidance techniques, and traffic and intersection etiquette. Participants must have attended URBAN BIKE SKILLS: BE a CYCLIST on May 3.

All May – Team Bike Challenge. Form a team of up to five people, record your daily bike mileage on the Team Bike Challenge site. Team members earn points for every mile they pedal, whether they’re riding to work, school, errands or just for fun.

Through October – Pedal Power: From Workhorse to Wacky. Bikes of every shape, size and purpose are featured in this exhibit detailing the history of bikes and bicycling from a local perspective. Free.

What’s your challenge for Bike Month? Riding to work? to the library or stores? Or meeting a new mileage goal for the month?

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Keep It Local on Bike to Shop Day

This story originally appeared in Bike Fun in the Mountain View Voice on April 25, 2014.

There’s more to practical cycling than bike commuting on Bike to Work Day on May 8. The whole month of May is National Bike Month and you’ll find a full calendar of bike activities throughout the month, from urban skills classes to a theft prevention seminar to a family ride with Kidical Mass. And this year there’s a new event being launched here in Silicon Valley: Bike to Shop Day.

For me, shopping by bike is a great way to have fun and get exercise while taking care of errands that started back in 1993 when I bought an entry-level mountain bike so I could ride downtown. At one mile from my home, Castro Street was too far to walk comfortably with packages and it seemed silly to drive such a short distance. I installed a rear rack, bought some panniers and starting riding all over town, just like I do today. I’m not the only one out there either, as evidenced by bikes parked to every rack, signpost, railing and tree on Castro Street and by the busy bike racks at stores like Safeway, Trader Joe’s and at Stanford Shopping Center.

But somehow biking to shop doesn’t get promoted like biking to work gets, which has never made sense to me. My workplaces have always been 5-12 miles from home, whereas most of my errands are close to home. Groceries, pharmacy, post office, dry cleaning, sporting goods and hardware stores are all less than a 15 minute ride away. Even more important: I don’t have much choice in my workplace location, but I can choose where I shop. If there’s not a pleasant route or secure parking, I shop elsewhere.

Adina at Mollie Stone

That’s why I’ve teamed up with volunteers and staff at Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition to launch Bike to Shop Day Silicon Valley. The concept is simple: You hop on your bike to shop, dine or do errands on Saturday, May 17, 2014 and participating local businesses will offer you a discount or other incentive for arriving by bike.

The team has signed up 16 Mountain View businesses to offer special deals for bike shoppers and another 16 within easy biking distance in Los Altos and Palo Alto. Plus dozens more throughout Silicon Valley for a grand total of over 75 shops. Participating merchants are listed and mapped on the Bike to Shop Day site using smartphone-friendly Google map that’s zoomable and clickable to view shop and special offer information. Starting next weekend you’ll see Bike to Shop Day posters in windows of participating stores.

Patagonia Bike Shopper

If you’re new to shopping by bike, you have a few weeks to get prepared. For small shopping loads, all you need is a backpack. But now is a good time to gear up with a front basket or a rear rack and panniers to carry more. If you don’t want to burden your favorite bike with such attachments or park your precious baby outside stores, consider souping up an old bike as a grocery getter like I wrote about last summer.

If you’re a dedicated bike shopper who prides yourself on the crazy things you’ve strapped on your bike and rolled away with, the Bike to Shop Challenge gives you a chance to show off, and a chance to win some prizes. Businesses have donated gift certificates and other items as drawing prizes for people who take the challenge. To enter, all you need to do is take a fun photo of your bike and/or you on one of your shopping trips, then send it to organizers. Your photo will be posted on their web site and on social media and you’ll be entered in the prize drawing.


I’m really excited that we’re expanding Bike Month beyond Bike to Work Day, and I’m proud that so many of our local businesses are getting involved. Maybe next year Bike to Shop Day will grow to be a regional, state or national event. And then we can say that like so many other things, it was founded in Silicon Valley.

Do you shop, dine or do errands by bicycle? If so, where are your favorite places to go and why?

Quick Gear Guide for Shopping by Bike

  • Rear racks support loads over your bike’s rear wheel, making for a stable ride. Most attach to the frame near the rear wheel axle and to the seat stays, the frame area just below the seat.
  • Panniers are bike-specific bags that attach to racks. Touring panniers are designed to be more aerodynamic and weather-proof for long trips, while boxy open-topped panniers are convenient for quick stops and shorter trips.
  • Baskets are usually mounted on the handlebars but can also be attached to a rear rack. Handlebar baskets are great for keeping things close at hand, like purses and small pets. Having weight on the handlebars affects steering more than when the weight is on the back, so be careful with a heavier load.
  • Elastic straps work well when you have an odd-shaped object or a few too many items to carry. The best ones are flat instead of round with two or three straps emerging from a single hook at each end, but I also keep micro-sized bungees on my bike just in case.
  • Kickstands are handy for making quick stops on errand runs and almost required when you’re carrying groceries on your bike. It’s a lot easier to load up when you don’t have to balance the bike too.
  • Bike trailers can carry far bigger loads than a bike alone. I use my cargo trailer when I’m buying the big stuff like 30 rolls of toilet paper at Costco, or when I want to buy more than three bags of groceries in one trip. Note that they’re less stable when empty. I learned the hard way.
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A Resolution for a Century (or Two)

This story originally appeared in Bike Fun in the Mountain View Voice on January 17, 2014.

According to a recent poll, the top five New Year’s resolutions for 2014 are: lose weight, get organized, spend less/save more, live life to the fullest and stay fit, and healthy. As you probably already know, riding your bike can definitely help you achieve four of the five. If someone knows how bikes can help you get organized, please let me know. Mine cause more clutter in my garage than they solve.

Resolutions are only as good as the plan you set up to achieve them, and it seems every other sports or fitness magazine or web site offers detailed plans. Most of them offer a strong framework for success, but for me, a training plan alone was never enough. I need deadlines to keep me accountable, and the best way for me to create them was to insert organized group rides into my training plan.

There are bike events almost every weekend here in the Bay Area, from shorter fun rides to “century” rides that cover 100 mile in a day. Often the same event will offer routes in a variety of distances and difficulties so you can choose what fits your training plan. By working up to higher intensity events over a season, I’ve seen people progress from their longest ride being 35 miles to completing a 100 mile century. Actually, that would be me, back in 2003.

Vineyard Bicycling

Most Bay Area bike clubs host a century rides that include metric century (62 mile), half century (50 mile) or 30 mile fun rides in addition to the classic 100 mile routes. Some even offer double-metrics (124 miles) or double centuries (200 miles). They’re organized by volunteers which keeps their costs down, and unlike charity rides, you won’t have to fund raise to participate.

The event web site will list the routes by distance and usually have a chart with the elevation profile and total elevation gain for the ride. Pay close attention to the elevation gain. A 50 mile ride with 3,000 feet of elevation gain is harder for most people than a 60 mile ride with 1,000 feet. One smart strategy is to choose a flatter ride when increasing your distance, then do the same distance at your next event on a hillier route. String together event rides and you’ll be surprised how far you’ll go by the end of the season.

Solvang Century Finish 2

Over the years, century rides develop reputations. Some are known for jaw-dropping scenery and tummy-filling delights, others for gut-busting hills where you’re working too hard to enjoy much. The ride name gives a clue: fruits and flowers tend toward the former, and you can guess what “challenge,” “devil” or “death” in a name mean. Here are some of my local favorites and what they’re famous for.

Best Early Season: Solvang Century (March 8)
If you want to get a jump on the season, head south to the wine country on the central coast. The Solvang century offers three distances (50 mi, 63 mi, 100 mi) on rolling terrain with less climbing per mile than most. Fans of the movie Sideways will recognize locations from the movie along the route, including the ostrich farm. My friends and I shared an inexpensive room in the windmill motel in Buellton where Jack and Miles stayed.

Best for Power Foods: Tierra Bella (April 12)
The Almaden Cycle Touring Club has been sponsoring this South Santa Clara County ride with four moderate to hilly route options (35 mi, 60 km, 100 mi, 200 km) for almost 40 years. Since local cyclists plan not only the routes, but also the food, the quantity is abundant and quality is exceptional. One bite of the salty boiled potatoes at the top of Gilroy Hot Springs and you’ll forget the climb up there.

Best Kept Secret: Primavera Century (April 27)
Many long-running century rides sell out months before the event, but not the Primavera. Sponsored by the Fremont Freewheelers bike club, it tours the backroads of Southern Alameda and Northern Santa Clara County. If you’ve never ridden the twisty road above Calaveras Reservoir when the wildflowers are out in springtime you need to do this ride. Five distances from 25-100 miles with moderate climbing.

Best Apple Pie: Strawberry Fields Forever (May 18)
Head over the hills for a choice of three rides that tour the Santa Cruz coast, and climbs up to the ridge line on the 100 mile route. The rest stops have international themes from French to Greek, but my favorite is the good old American apple pie at Gizdich ranch. So fresh you can rest in the shade under the apple trees.

Best for Hill Lovers: Sequoia Century (June 1) By June you’ll be ready for a bigger challenge, right? Sign up for the Sequoia Century sponsored by our local bike club, Western Wheelers. With the exception of the 30 miler, all routes cross the hills to the coast and include steep climb up Redwood Gulch, Highway 9 and Tunitas Creek. To put it in perspective, the Sequoia’s 100 km (62 mi) route has more climbing (8,000 ft) than most 100 mile routes. If you’re training for the Death Ride, the Sequoia is a great way to prepare for the challenge.

Best for Bragging Rights: Death Ride (July 12)
Its official name is the Tour of the California Alps, but it’s called the Death Ride for a reason: 129 miles and five mountain passes for a total elevation gain of 15,000 feet in the thin air of the Sierra Mountains. Complete all five passes of this ride and you’ll get to sign the official event poster, and earn national-scale bragging rights. Registration opens every December, quickly fills and then closes. But it’s not too late. In April, they open up for a brief registration period again.

Best Death Ride Alternative: Santa Cruz Mountains Challenge (July 26)
Missed the Death Ride or want more of the pain? At 133 miles and 18,063′ of climbing, the 200 km route of the Santa Cruz Mountain Challenge exceeds the Death Ride by more than 2,000 feet. If that’s too much, there are 100 and 66 mile routes that also include the climb up Jamison Creek Road that delivers a punishing 14% grade in long stretches. Even their 35 mile route racks up over 100 feet of climbing per mile. Ouch!

Best for Procrastinators: Holstein Hundred (August 16) & Napa Century (August 17)
If you got a late start on your training, there’s a double header of centuries in the North Bay in August. The the Holstein Hundred ranges from foggy coastlines to sunny valleys with yes, lots of cows in rural Western Sonoma County. That same weekend, the Napa Century rolls through vineyards and wineries with longer routes climbing out of the Napa Valley. The morning chill is gone by that first climb and before long you’ll be relaxing with a glass of your favorite vintage. For a challenge, you can stay in Petaluma or Santa Rosa and ride both centuries in one weekend.

Do you have a training plan or a cycling challenge for the new year? We’re over two weeks in, how’s it going?

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All Day Fun for an All-American Holiday

This story originally appeared in Bike Fun in the online edition of the Mountain View Voice on June 27, 2013.

Parades, picnics and fireworks, and everything decked out in red, white and blue. That’s what the Fourth of July meant to me as a kid and it’s what I look for to celebrate our nation’s day of independence. Fortunately, these traditions live on in our area so that today’s youngsters can experience summer’s biggest holiday the good old-fashioned way.

There’s something for everyone throughout the day–morning, noon and night–and it’s even better if you bring a bike along for the Fourth of July fun.

Morning: Rose, White and Blue Parade in San Jose
I’m a little disappointed that there’s not a big parade closer to home, but San Jose’s Alameda Business District is hosting their grand Rose White & Blue Parade. The parade’s roots began in 1896 with a Rose Carnival, which evolved into the Fiesta de Las Rosas from 1926 to 1969 and was revived as today’s parade. The parade starts at 10 am from Lincoln High School in San Jose and wends its way through the Rose Garden neighborhood and down the shady historic district on The Alameda.

People on bikes, scooters, strollers or roller skates are welcome to join the parade and are encouraged to decorate them in roses, red, white and blue. Organizers will also have some decorations available the morning of the parade for those who need them. Just show up and sign up that morning starting at 8:30 am to decorate and be ready to ride by 10 am.

How to Get There: If you want to ride in the parade, you will need to take the VTA 22 bus on El Camino or drive to get there in time. To watch the parade, you can also take Caltrain from downtown Mountain View and walk or bike a mile to the parade route, or take the slower VTA 22 bus which should take you directly to the parade route. Note that transit will be on a holiday schedule.

Noon: Palo Alto Summer Festival & Chili Cook-off
A tradition for over 30 years in Palo Alto’s Mitchell Park, the festival features live music and children’s activities including jumpy houses, balloon artist, face painting from noon-5 pm. But the highlight of the event is tasting a wide range of red-hot chili prepared by chefs battling for the chili championship. Chili tasting starts at 1:30 pm. There’s a small fee to taste.

How to Get There: Mitchell Park is on the South side of Palo Alto, so it’s an easy bike ride from Mountain View. See the map for bike routes ideas. Don’t forget to bring a bike lock.

Night: Shoreline Amphitheatre July 4th Fireworks with the San Francisco Symphony.
As Mountain View residents, we get special perks for certain events at the Shoreline Amphitheatre, like the San Francisco Symphony’s July 4th concert. It’s too late this year to get in on the 2,000 free tickets for residents, but discounted lawn seats for $13.50 are available until the day of the show, which starts with a Radio Disney Family Festival at 5 pm.

The fireworks at the end of the concert draw even more people to the area, and you don’t need a ticket to see them. The trick to getting close enough for a good view is to take the Permanente Creek Trail and find a spot on the golf course, or take the Stevens Creek Trail to my favorite spot, the grassy kite flying area near Shoreline Park entrance. The fireworks usually start after dark (between 9:15 and 9:30 pm) so you’ll need an extra layer of clothing to keep warm and bike lights for the ride home.

How to Get There: For the concert or fireworks, take either the Permanente or Stevens Creek Trails. The concert offers supervised bike parking near the amphitheatre entrance. After the show, the trails will be crowded. Expect to walk or ride your bike slowly on the trails until the crowds thin out.

Tips for Decorating Your Bike

Bike decorations don’t have to be elaborate or expensive, but they have to stay put when the bike is moving without endangering the rider. So far I have 100% success in that department, unless you count ripping the crepe paper woven in my spokes when pumping my tires.

While decorating a bike is like a kid’s craft project where almost anything goes, here are my top tips:

* For virtually free decorations, grab images off the internet and print them on card stock.
* If you shop at a party store, set a budget before you go in. It’s easy to overspend.
* If you ride after dark, battery operated lights punch up whatever else you do.
* Zip ties are the #1 way to attach things, but sticky backed Velcro, rubber bands and ordinary tape work too.

San Jose Rose, White & Blue Parade:
Palo Alto Summer Festival and Chili Cook-Off:
Shoreline Amphitheatre 4th of July Concert & Fireworks:
Fourth of July Bike Fun Map:

Independence Day Bike

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