It’s nearly impossible to forget the first time I felt the exciting crunch of gravel beneath the wheels of my bike.
The summer sun beat down on us, four junior high renegades bombing around on our bikes with a thirst for exploration and adventure.
That’s a fancy way of saying we were looking for a shortcut to my friend’s new digs, hoping a closed road would pay off.
We skirted around the wooden barricade, and soon charged down a thrilling, winding, hill. That’s when the pavement disappeared beneath our rubber and gravel introduced itself at the most inconvenient of moments.
A quick, terrifying glance at my speedometer showed we were pushing 30 mph as we whipped through a tight corner.
My buddies, with more appropriate bikes for this, slammed on their coaster brakes and roared to a stop with their fatter tires. Meanwhile, on my less than ideal 10-speed with rim brakes and thin tires, I didn’t dare touch the brakes for fear of my wheels skidding out from under me.
With some sketchy fish-tailing not to mention Divine Intervention, I somehow managed to stay upright through the turn, but before the road could level off and I could breathe easy, reality hit.
I found no wooden barricade on this end of the road. No, I faced a 6-foot tall berm of dirt to discourage visitors. A small, foot-wide worn section showed I wouldn’t be the first to slip over this impressive obstacle.
Instead, I would just be the first to do so at 30 mph.
Here I bow to the reports of my witnesses, who say I launched 20 feet high and 20 feet out before flipping over my front wheel with my elbow somewhat softening the impact of my face on, you guessed it, more gravel.
Of course, by this point in my life I was well acquainted with the emergency room and stitches. So you understand how gravel sparks memories for me.
The emergence of Gravel Grinders as popular cycling events — my aerial acrobatics notwithstanding — makes sense to me. Especially having spent the better part of the past 10 years in Oregon exploring countless gravel fire roads.
My Bike Friday Pocket Llamas (yes, I have two) have proven to be perfect for Gravel Grinding, and after my recent trip to Sea Otter in California, I learned our Bike Friday Diamond Tourist might even be more hungry for that type of terrain, and for a more affordable choice we have our Bike Friday Pocket Expedition.
The greatest value of my Bike Friday comes from the travel aspect that few consider at the outset: Its ability to remain folded in the back of my SUV, under a blanket, giving me constant access to my bike without anyone knowing I have it with me.
Here in Oregon, that means endless opportunities to steal away an hour or two, simply riding up the nearest fireroad.
The ability to go to wider tires make the Llama, Expedition and Diamond Tourist perfect for this joyriding. Toss in a Thudbuster seatpost and you’re ready for action.
After countless miles on Schwalbe Big Apple tires, I’ve spent the past year enjoying Maxxis Holy Rollers, that give me a little bit of knobby tread that, I hope, might come in handy if and when that next berm rears its ugly head.
Here are two great resources for Gravel Grinding:
You can read more of Raz’s adventures in his ebook “You Can’t Cook a Dead Crab and Eat It”
Add comment May 18, 2015
Brock Dittus of The Sprocket Podcast in Portland recently interviewed Bike Friday Special Projects Manager Raz for a podcast
Add comment May 11, 2015
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Maria Contreras Tebbutt was one of the first to order a Bike Friday Haul-a-Day, which she uses to promote cycling in her Hispanic Community in Woodland, California. To help celebrate Bike Month, Raz visited her shop on a Saturday morning.]
The sunlight pokes through some scattered clouds on an early Saturday in Woodland, California.
It’s a perfect morning to climb on your bike and hit the inviting roads that spread into the beautiful countryside around the Sacramento Valley.
About 10 miles south, in the cycling haven of Davis, many cyclists are doing just that. You can see them on the backroads, clad in lycra and rolling in bright bunches.
Behind Douglass Middle School in Woodland, a small posse of volunteers arrives and soon used, refurbished bikes pour out of a small garage. A handful of volunteers work on bikes.
Maris Contreras Tebutt arrives with two bikes on the back of her car. She bounces out and invigorates everyone with her boundless energy.
Maria runs The Bike Campaign & Bike Garage, a program of the Center for Families. Her goal is simple: Get the folks of Woodland to embrace cycling.
“Davis has a strong cycling community, and Woodland is next door, just 10 miles away,” Maria said. “Yet we are worlds apart.
“The schools here are 75 percent free lunch. It’s about 50 percent Hispanic. I chose to make this my target audience. I target Hispanic women because I am one, and I speak Spanish.”
She targets them because she sees an opportunity to make a real difference.
“Introducing them to cycling I can have an impact,” Maria said. “I tell them you have to spend $10,000 for a car. Imagine what you could have with $10,000 for food. Bikes can make a big impact to a family’s finances.”
Once Maria heard about the Haul-a-Day she had to have one. It is a great example of what a bike can do for a family.
“Parents not knowing what their options are, or being able to pay for them, pose an obstacle to reducing car trips to schools,” Maria said, pointing out the conga line of cars at schools each day is something she is targeting.
“When bike-riding young parents start driving themselves around during pregnancy, this trend may continue until they drive their kids off to college, and give them a car, too.”
Maria points out that the exhaust output of one minute of car idling equals the output of three packs of cigarettes.
“If I did that in a classroom wouldn’t people be throttling me,” Maria said.
On this Saturday in April, Maria spends time teaching a young parent how to ride a bike. She does that a lot. She also encourages people to try to ride.
She spent 15 minutes talking about the benefits of bike riding to Andy, a parent who came to learn more about bike riding. A few days later, she heard back from him.
“I’m excited,” Andy said. “I’ve finally ridden my bike to work this morning, and politely — and proudly — declined a car ride from a co-worker for lunch to that new sandwich place downtown. I got there (on my bike) with no time wasted on looking for parking.”
Maria has two Haul-a-Days that will be the foundation of a Family Bike Lending Library she is working on to allow families to borrow bikes and learn how they can change their lives.
Andy will be one of the first to borrow the Haul-a-Day to pedal his 9-year-old daughter to school.
“People can change,” Maria said. “They just need to know what all their options are.”
Add comment May 6, 2015
The New York Times has an article on the emergence of Cargo Bikes.
Add comment April 29, 2015
Portland’s Metro put out a great resource for anyone interested in learning more about cycling with a family and children.
You can view the Family Biking Guide here.
Add comment April 6, 2015
The Chicago Tribune is out front on the Cargo Bike trend as it relates to families with kids;
Add comment March 21, 2015
This from owner KayCee Millitante:
“My first time taking a bike on the Metra — ever — and the only problem I had was that the conductor wouldn’t stop asking me about my very cool bike smile emoticon (and I’d been nervous because I heard some were cranky about bringing on bikes!)”
— KayCee Millitante
Add comment March 16, 2015
We got this note from a Haul-a-Day owner:
“With the front wheel turned around and the bike in the 52cm position, the Haul-a-Day fits nicely in the bike racks on a Santa Clara VTA Light Rail train car, so HaDs in the Silicon Valley can ride light rail with confidence!”
— Martin Quiazon
Add comment March 16, 2015
Some amazing people are attracted by the Haul-a-Day.
The song is called The Wolf and it is written and performed by John Ross-Boyce.
Add comment March 10, 2015
The Examiner did a story on the Seattle Bike Show. Check out the photos. Bike Friday is well represented.
Add comment March 5, 2015