Fat Biking - Creating an Inclusive Community for People of All Sizes on Bicycles

***Extra Special Guest Blog Post***

This week’s post is co-written by myself (Marley) and Kailey Kornhauser, a super-rad fellow fat biker from Oregon. We met on Instagram and presented a session together at the WTF Bikexplorers Summit on Fat Bikers. Hope you enjoy!

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This past weekend was the 2nd annual WTF Bikexplorer Summit in Vernonia, Oregon. We were lucky enough to have our session on Fat Bikers and body size inclusivity in cycling accepted and we presented to a packed house of over 40 people of all shapes and sizes! We covered a lot of ground during our hour long discussion but promised our session attendees that we’d post a list of additional resources on Marley’s blog afterwards.

So for the benefit of those who weren’t able to attend the summit and for those who want to relive the glory that was (including coordinating crop tops), we’ve compiled an overview of our session, including our session outline, handouts, and additional resources. Feel free to scroll down to the Resources section for some great reading lists, Instagrammers to follow, and suggested brands to support.

So much good stuff and so little time- we definitely could’ve talked about this all weekend.

(For real, we will come talk with any bike or outdoor brands who want to discuss this topic more in depth. The average size of a “woman” in the US is now between a 16 and 18, and men average close to 200lbs. Lots of folks who ride bikes also don’t necessarily fall into the rigid gender binary, so how about some non-gender specific gear while we’re at it? Current products and gear don’t work for this HUGE audience and we’d love to help make it better, more functional, safer, and better looking. Get at your girls. Email Marley here, and Kailey here..)

Session Outline

Introductions

Land Acknowledgement

Ground Rules

Written Exercise & Discussion

The Nitty-Gritty: Gear, Equipment & Clothing

Resource List

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Introductions

Kailey Kornhauser likes to ride her bike slowly across long distances. When she isn’t riding her bike to the cinnamon roll shop or grinding some local gravel, Kailey is a forestry PhD student at Oregon State University. Kailey used to think that if she biked a lot she would lose weight. Then Kailey rode her bike a lot and didn’t lose any weight. Finally, she realized that she loved her body, and it turns out you don’t have to be thin to ride bikes. 

Marley Blonsky also likes to ride her bike slowly, but across shorter distances than Kailey. She can often be found bike camping, eating ice cream or playing in the garden. Marley is a sustainability manager for a large logistics company where she helps companies manage their carbon footprints from shipping. Marley rides her bike in Seattle for transportation, fun, and because the bus and car are slow and frustrating.  She is an active transportation activist who wants to see safe, equitable access for all people, regardless of gender, income, race, age, or body size.

Land Acknowledgment: The WTF Bike Summit was held in Vernonia, Oregon, which is on the traditional lands of the Chinook and Clatskanie People. As white people, we felt it was important to take a few minutes at the beginning of our session to recognize that the land we were on was stolen from the indigenous people who lived there previously and the history of colonialism. To learn more about land acknowledgments and whose land you are on, please visit https://native-land.ca/

Session ground rules

Our session started with a community agreement to follow a few ground rules

  1. Fat is not a bad word.

  2. No Diet Talk.

  3. No body shaming.

  4. Beware of coded language.

  5. Celebrate your body for what it can do, not what it can’t.

We took turns going over each of these rules, explaining their importance and getting agreement from the group. We also asked the group if there were any additional agreements they would like to be added before we proceeded, and from there, we were off to the fun part of the talk! 

We also had a quick vocab lesson about the fat spectrum and privilege. Both of us identify as “small fats.” This terminology comes from the Fat Lip podcast where they’ve got a helpful primer on the fat spectrum.

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We both range in size from an 18-22 (XL-2X) depending on brand and garment so for the most part, can walk into stores and find clothes that fit. This includes some athletic wear, but not usually cycling specific wear. We did want to call attention to our privilege in this area, as there are SuperFat people and InfiniFat people who cannot walk into any store, let alone REI, Target, or order clothing online and have it fit, even from the plus size department. 

Reflection/Discussion Questions

Kailey then led a reflective writing and discussion session that asked session participants to think critically the following questions: 

  • What do you love about your body?

  • When do you feel limited by your body?

  • How can you be an ally to people of all sizes as a leader in the WTF bike community?

  • Riding a bike is a physical activity - there is no getting around that and there are some very real limitations for people in a larger body, or who have disabilities/chronic illnesses, etc. How can we create spaces that are welcoming and accessible to all that allow anyone who wants to to enjoy the fun/freedom/power experience of riding a bicycle?


Talking candidly about these tough topics felt so powerful, healing, and honest. We unfortunately only had an hour for the entire session and had some other topics (like gear and clothing) to get to but discussions definitely continued the rest of the weekend. 

Candid conversations about our bodies on bikes

Candid conversations about our bodies on bikes

Gear & Resource List

General gear & Personalize Recommendations

Before preparing for our WTF session, we had not thought extensively about weight limits, partially because we are small fat people, but also because the industry doesn’t talk about these limits. 

It can be challenging to find many of the structural weight limits on bicycle company websites. This article by Peggy Hughes explains how to determine your own weight, gear weight, total weight, and the structural weight limit a bike can support. Hughes also talks about bike wheel weight limits in depth. She explains that while structural weight limit of the bicycle itself is important, wheels often have an even more restrictive weight limit. Bikers in larger bodies may want to consider wheels with strong rims and a higher amount of spokes. Other things to take into consideration are bike frame material (steel vs carbon vs aluminum), component material (including the seat post), and options to switch out the stock components for comfort.

Additionally, Specialized provides an example of what to look for when searching bike manufacturer pages for structural weight limits. Many structural weight limits (rider plus cargo) are somewhere between 240-300 pounds. Take a look here for a good overview of structural weight limits for many brands. 

Another factor to consider is the rate at which a fat cyclist will go through components. For instance, cyclists in larger bodies may wear out brake pads or pedals at a faster rate. Besides costing more, this does not pose much of a problem, but who wants to pay more when it feels like being fat already costs more?! However, fat cyclists may want to consider keeping extra components on hand to save themselves a trip to a bike shop. 

Kailey leads discussion at the Summit

Kailey leads discussion at the Summit

Our Specific Gear

Kailey 5’2 Size 1XL-3XL tops, XXL or 18-20 bottoms

Bibs:

  • Pearl iZumi Women’s Pursuit Attack Bib up to size XXL (I like it because the straps clip in between your boobs, the length of the leg is nice and doesn’t run up, the chamois is thick)

  • De Marchi Women’s Leggero Bib Short up to XXL (They are shorter than the Pearl iZumi and I do get a thigh muffin-top from them but it isn’t uncomfortable, they have a thinner chamois and have continued to be a go to for longer tours)

  • Terry Breakaway Shorts up to XXL (I stayed away from shorts for my first few years of riding because I thought they would cut into my stomach or always be falling down but they actually are the comfiest bike bottoms I have, medium thickness chamois, pretty short compared to my bibs but again it feels comfortable)

 Jerseys:

I mostly wear T-shirts when I ride, simply because it is a preference. I have found some XXL jerseys (Pearl iZumi), they usually ride up for me and I don’t use the pockets anyways 

 Sports Bra: 

Everyone is different but for me the Lane Bryant Wicking High Impact Molded Underwire Sports Bra was a game changer. 

Bikes: 

  • Specialized Diverge (structural weight limit is 240, I may well be over that limit but have not had issues after about 2,000 miles of riding) 

  • Surly Troll (no weight limit) says f f f fatties fit fine on the fork, indicating that the bike can fit fat tires but I like to think it’s talking about me

Saddle:

I am very fortunate in that I have liked the saddles that have come on both of these bikes. I especially like the Women’s Myth Expert by Specialized

Bikepacking gear:

I’m unable to fit my underwire sports bra in any of my revelate bags so I strap it to the outside of the handlebar roll bag and it works great! 


Marley  5’2 Size 1XL-3XL tops, XXL or 18-20 bottoms (we’re basically the same person)


Bottoms: This totally depends on the season and purpose for biking for me. When commuting or going shorter distances in the winter, I’ll wear cotton leggings or fleece tights(because they don’t make plus size wool leggings), or jeggings. In the summer, I’ll wear a dress most days. 


When I’m bike touring, I have a pair of Novara XXL leggings I love that are sadly no longer being made, but I will wear them until they are threadbare. I also have a pair of Terry 2X shorts that are alright. The pickings are slim and I’ve basically decided I won’t be cute on bike tour.


Tops: I don’t wear bike jerseys. They weren’t made for people with large breasts and curves. Instead I wear normal tops or dresses. I’ve recently been wearing a lot of Columbia base layers on tour because they layer well and protect from the sun. 

Bikes: I ride a 42cm 650b Surly Straggler with a Brooks B17 saddle. It’s strong and has been my go-to bike for nearly every adventure for almost five years. I recently bought a Marin Pine Mountain 1 for mountain biking which is a fun bike, but it’s a bit too large for me. 


Bikepacking/camping gear: I’ve found that as a fat woman, my clothes take up more space than my smaller friends. I’ve tried using the Ortlieb frame bags/butt rocket system but found that I like using the old school pannier system better. For a sleep system, I use the REI Joule bag, which is a tight fit around my hips, but it works for now. If I was a size or two bigger, this sleeping bag would not work for me. 

Brands we Love & Support*

SheBeest - up to 3xl

SuperFit Hero - up to 5XL

RSport (triathalon specific, but has padded chamois for cycling)- Up to 6X

Eddie Bauer - Up to 3X

REI - Up to 3X (not necessarily in cycling/performance gear)

SportivePlus - up to 5X (Canadian brand)

Prana - Up to 3x (we’re both wearing their stuff in the first photo!)

*We’re not making any money off of these brands…no affiliate links. But if any brands (ESPECIALLY BIKE brands want some fat people to test gear, we’re here for it!)

Fat Outdoor Resources

Fat Activism Resources

  • Some fat history: 1967 first “fat-in” in Central Park, over 500 in attendance, protesting and burning diet books, 1969 National ASsociation to Advace Fat Acecptance was founded and still exists today, 1972 The Fat Underground formed by radical fat lesibians 

  • She's all Fat Podcast

  • The Fat Lip Podcast

  • Facebook Groups: Fat Girls Traveling, Fat Girls Hiking, Big Girls Climb Too

Coordinating Crop tops!

Coordinating Crop tops!

Moving…A Fresh Start

One of the best things about moving is the feeling of a fresh start. I moved three times as a kid- before 6th grade, in ninth grade and then again a year later. (I’ll try and dig up some photos from all these moves!)

At the time, each move felt transformative. The first move happened while I was going through puberty, so I went from the awkward, ugly, chubby kid in Texas to the new, interesting girl with boobs in Spokane. That year I had my first kiss, experienced my first snow, and started my love affair with the Pacific Northwest. 


We moved again in December 2000, moving back from Washington to Texas. (My stepdad worked for the railroad, so to move up the ladder meant relocating.) I’m not sure the story of how or why, but instead of moving back to an area we were familiar with, we moved to Azle, a backwards small town that worshipped its football team like gods and could have been taken straight from the set of Varsity Blues.


Again this move landed in my favor in a messed-up high school way. Puberty was good to me and I was the new girl with big boobs, who joined the student council and played sports (a crucial element for popularity in Texas.) Within a week of starting school I had a boyfriend, who I didn’t like talk to, but we ate lunch together and went to Save the Last Dance and held hands, so it totally counts, right? 


Our time in Texas was intense. In less than a year I met the first boy I fell in love with. I lost my virginity. I was sexually assaulted, at the summer camp I had gone to for most of my life. September 11th happened. My sister and I threw our first house party. We drove to Dallas and went to a Blink 182 concert. I was almost arrested by cops in Texas. And then we moved again.


My mom hated Texas and everything about it. The move from Spokane to Texas put incredible stress on her and my stepdad’s marriage, so IMO the move back to Spokane in 2002 was a last ditch effort to save the family. (It didn’t work and the next year was hell, but bygones.)


We packed up the house and drove across the country yet again. This drive is actually one of my favorite memories with my sister. We were both miserable- our lives had been uprooted twice in less than a year and while I can’t speak for her, judging from our choice of music during the ride, there’s a good chance we were both dealing with a serious bout of depression and anger. Yay untreated mental illness. But thank god for burned CDs full of Saves the Day, The Early November, Dashboard Confessional and all the other sad sap songs we cried our eyes out to driving west. 


This move we didn’t have the luxury of starting over. We were plopped back into our old school that we had left a year before. This time I didn’t feel quite so special. Instead it felt like everyone’s lives had moved on, without me. New friendships had formed, there were new inside jokes, and I didn’t fit into their small circle anymore. My heart hurt for a number of reasons, but I think most of all, this place that I thought was home just wasn’t home anymore. 


Every move since then has been as an adult and they’ve all been my own choice. From moving in the dorms while a student at UW to moving apartments, I relish the opportunity to pick up and start over. Packing everything up feels tidy. I get to make the value judgement of what to keep and throw away. 


This move is especially fun. I’m moving in with my partner of two years into a shared apartment. I haven’t lived with a significant other since I was married, and this move feels so much more intentional. I’m excited to share space and mingle our belongings, especially our books. 

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Bike Tour in Canada, Eh?

It’s been a while since I went on an extended bike tour. Most of my trips last summer were a single night, and the one longer trip I had planned was cancelled because of wildfire smoke. So when my friend Gabby proposed the idea of a trip over the 4th of July holiday weekend to Canada, I jumped at it.

Matchy matchy on the Kinsol Tressel

Matchy matchy on the Kinsol Tressel

Our rough plan (emphasis on rough, as we’ll get back to that) was to do a 3 or 4 day loop around Vancouver Island, starting on Wednesday and returning on Saturday or Sunday. Our planning parameters for the trip:

  • Fairly mellow in terms of both mileage and elevation gain

  • Include the Kinsol Trestle

  • Take advantage of the awesome trail network in British Columbia

Turns out, you can’t really google routes using those search terms. We found a few loops on RidewithGPS that looked promising, got some intel from friends who had ridden up here before, and came up with a draft plan for our trip. We knew there were multiple camping options and plenty of food and water supply opportunities throughout the ride, so we didn’t plan any of those in advance.

Here’s the route we ended up doing, which ended up being 124ish miles and around 4500 feet of climbing. I 100% recommend this route - the roads, trails and ferries were absolutely lovely and I would totally ride it again.

I would NOT recommend any of the places we slept at. I’ll explain more later and provide some alternative camping ideas, but they were all a little bit off in one way or another.

Day 0: Seattle to Port Angeles

No bikes were ridden on this day. Our original plan was to take the Bainbridge ferry from Seattle, drive to Port Angeles and catch the Blackball Ferry to Victoria. But traffic the day before July 4th sucks, so we got a later start than we wanted and didn’t get to Port Angeles until almost 9pm. Thanks to a friendly Warm Showers host just off the Olympic Discovery Trail, we had a cute cabin to sleep in before our 8am ferry to Canada. (Feel free to message me for the Warm Showers details.)

Day 1: Victoria to Salt Springs

We took the early ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria, BC. This was my first time on this ferry and it’s really easy with a bike! Roll it on to the front of the boat, tie it up to the rack and voila, you’re done! Lots of other folks had the same idea - we met families on bike, other bike tourers, and casual riders going for a day ride in Canada.

The bike racks on the Black Ball Ferry to Victoria

The bike racks on the Black Ball Ferry to Victoria

Once in Victoria, our first stop was Broad Street Cycles. We needed to figure out a more solid plan for our tour. I met these guys a few years ago at Single Speed Cyclocross Worlds, hosted in Victoria and remember how friendly and welcoming they were. Turns out they remember me too! We bought a map, got a recommendation for breakfast and by noon were on our way…to breakfast.

After fueling up, we finally started pedaling, riding out of town on the Lochside Regional Trail. This flat, rail trail led us out of Victoria through beautiful, rolling wetlands, across bridges and into farmland where we shared the trail with horses and tractors.

The Lochside Regional Trail

The Lochside Regional Trail

We followed the trail all the way through Saanich and Sidney to the ferry terminal in Swartz Bay, where we just barely caught the ferry to Salt Spring Island. (p.s. Thank you to the kind soul who slowed down his own ride to guide us to the correct route, even turning around to make sure we made the right turn. Friendly Canadian encounter #1 of the trip.)

BC Ferries! Just like ours but no indoor space.

BC Ferries! Just like ours but no indoor space.

We were warned on the ferry to Salt Spring that the island was hilly and that proved to be true. But honestly, I didn’t find it to be overwhelmingly so. It felt a bit like Vashon or Bainbridge - a few big hills, but mostly rolling, rural farmland. Riding on Salt Spring was lovely - all the cars that passed us gave us plenty of space.

We enjoyed a short break at Cider Works before making our way to Ganges (the largest village on Salt Spring), where we found dinner and attempted to scout a place to camp. We were given some advice from some locals about a beach that is “great to camp on”, so feeling adventurous, we decided to camp there. Since this particular camping spot may or may not have been 100% legal, we spent the evening at the community theater production’s Shakespeare in the Park and eventually made our way towards the beach.

On our way to the beach, we realized we needed to fill up water bottles so we stopped at a pub. One thing led to another and soon it was way past dark. And we still didn’t have a place to sleep. All sorts of wise decision making happening at this point, but hey, at least there were 3 of us together.

We soldiered on with our plan to camp on the beach, riding another few kilometers from the pub to the spot we were told about. You can see on RidewithGPS the spur to Long Harbour. When we arrived, it was dark and I thought it looked promising. The spot seemed to be in the woods and looked safe enough to camp. My buddies had different ideas and wanted to leave, but it was nearly midnight and we made the decision to camp at the street end park. Not on the beach because the tide was up, and probably not a legal place to camp. When the sun rose, we realized there were houses about 100 yards from our campsite. Oops.

Day 1 Mileage: 43ish miles, 69 km

Day 2: Salt Spring Island to Chemanis to Duncan

After not a great night of sleep, we woke up and tore down our tents as quickly as possible. Heaven forbid the neighbors come down for the Friday morning walk and discover three bike tourists camping on their street end! (In all seriousness though, this experience gave me a lot more empathy to our unhoused neighbors who don’t have a safe place to sleep. I felt a lot of anxiety not knowing if somebody was going to come down in the middle of the night and harass us for setting up camp where we weren’t supposed to.)

After a quick breakfast of coffee and oatmeal we set off for the ferry back to mainland Vancouver Island, via the Vesuvius Ferry. Our plan for today was to ride to Chemanis, check out the Mural Capital of Canada, then backtrack a bit and setup camp at Bright Angel Regional Park. We all agreed that we wanted to sleep in an authorized campground.

We got off the ferry in Crofton and from there it was a nice 12 km ride into Chemanis. This part of the ride reminded me a lot of the Olympic Peninsula, albeit with much nicer drivers. The entire weekend I only had one close pass from a driver - the rest of the time every car gave us a wide berth and slowed way down when passing, definitely a welcome change from riding in the states.

Chemanis is a super cute historic town with a ton of murals. It definitely earned the name “The Mural Capital of Canada.” I failed and didn’t take any photos of the mural though. Next time.

In Chemanis, we met a local photographer and cyclist who told us about The BC Bike Race, who’s opening ceremonies were happening just down the road from our route. We detoured from our plan to go to Bright Angel park to see the opening ceremonies where a group from the Cowichan Tribe welcomed the race with a ceremonial dance, which was really cool to see.

BC Bike Race!

BC Bike Race!

At this point, we were still about 2 hours of riding from our intended campsite and were getting hangry. Again, prioritizing fun over a beautiful campsite, we pulled out the magical space device (google) and found a closer campsite. Our first attempt was a bust when we were told that no tents were allowed, but got lucky at the Riverside Cabins.

Cabins are a generous term for this property - it was more of a trailer park than a cabin, but it met our needs for the night: Water, bathrooms, a place for our tents. We had some interesting conversations with neighbors and were woken up by the sweet sounds of children playing on motorized hot wheels and drunken yelling (what’s the sarcasm emoji?) There was a lovely river flowing through camp that provided a great spot for a morning meditation and cool off.

Morning meditation by the river

Morning meditation by the river

By far the best part of Day 2 was Richards Trail - a backroad between Crofton and Maple Bay. If you go to this part of the world, you need to ride this road.

Richard’s Trail Road

Richard’s Trail Road

Day 2 Mileage: 32ish miles


Day 3: Duncan to Victoria

One of the themes throughout the trip was overly friendly Canadians insisting they knew what was best for us. A prime example of this was the beginning of Day 3 starting with our aggressively friendly campsite neighbors insisting that we take a “shortcut” over a railroad trestle to get to town. It was clear that none of these people had ever taken a bike on this route, as there were huge, tire-sucking gaps between the railroad ties (with a 30 foot drop underneath) and the route was definitely not rideable. Perhaps when walking it was a shortcut, but it likely added a solid 30 minutes to our start out of town.

Gabby makes the best of the railroad trestle situation

Gabby makes the best of the railroad trestle situation

We made the best of the situation and raised our spirits (and cell-phone batteries) with a visit to Tim Horton’s before starting our riding for the day. The plan was to find the Great Trail, ride it to the Kinsol Trestle, bop over to the Mill Bay Ferry and then head into Victoria where we’d hang out for the evening. As with the rest of our trip, it didn’t quite go to plan and everything takes just a bit longer than you expect.

We had a bit of a climb out of Duncan to find the Great Trail, which isn’t fully connected yet. Once we did find it, the riding was excellent. Varying grades of gravel - from chunky rocks to smooth asphalt grade gravel, but overall it was really lovely to ride. I’m really excited to go up and explore it more. So many wildflowers in bloom next to the trail too! Truly a lovely riding experience!

Riding on the Great Trail

Riding on the Great Trail

The Kinsol Trestle is a must see of this area as well. It looked like there were some trail heads close to the trestle, so you could take a more direct route, but what’s the fun in that?

After the trestle, we took the least hilly route back to Victoria possible. As we understood it, we could have taken the Trans-Canada trail the entire way, however, the trail has some steep sections that we weren’t mentally or physically ready to tackle. Instead, we opted for the Mill Bay ferry into Saanich, and then took the Lochside Trail back into Victoria.

We finished up our tour with a stay in a hostel downtown Victoria and caught the Black Ball back to Port Angeles early Sunday morning.

Day 3 Mileage: 41ish

Overall, the bike riding was excellent and I would recommend our route 100%. I would not recommend any of our sleeping choices, but there are plenty of other camping/hotel options and with a bit more foresight, all of the issues we ran into could easily be avoided.

We did it! Back in Victoria by sunset!

We did it! Back in Victoria by sunset!

Going to Greece? Skip the AirBNB

While I was in Athens I took two guided tours- one on foot and one on bike. Each explored very different parts of the city – the bike tour was focused on hidden gems and street art while the walking tour hit the historical highlights including the Ancient Agora, the Plaka, and the Acropolis.

“AirBNB doesn’t include breakfast” street art

“AirBNB doesn’t include breakfast” street art

Both tours were led by young male, native Athenians with history degrees from American universities who very clearly loved their home city despite its economic, political and social challenges. Aside from the gorgeous scenery, crazy traffic, and awe-inspiring history, my big take-away from these tours was the impact AirBNB is having on their local housing economy.

To be completely transparent, I stayed in an AirBNB in Athens. When I booked my trip, a coworker recommended I stay in a local hotel that she had enjoyed, but I shrugged off her advice and went for an AirBNB instead. I’ve had great experiences so far with the service –with highlights including a renovated trailer in Portland (with homemade edibles) to a working Carmelite monastery in Ghent, Belgium. Each has been unique and charming in its own way. So when the opportunity came to travel to Greece for a week, I did my usual and booked an AirBNB.


The unit I booked looked cute online. It was a newly renovated loft near Omonia Square – a “bustling square” in central Athens. Oh marketing copy- you’re so cute. Omonia Square was actually like Times Square before Rudy Guilliani’s efforts to clean it up in the early 1990s, without the bright lights. The ad showed a gleaming Jacuzzi in the bathroom, a view of the Acropolis out the front windows and exposed brick walls. The unit was so well advertised it was actually included in the new AirBNB Plus section – a curated pick of verified homes with “hosts known for great reviews and attention to detail.”

And truth be told, there was nothing actually wrong with the unit. The Jacuzzi worked, though I was limited to luke-warm water and a 20 minute time limit. There was also no toilet paper which I discovered in the middle of a poop, but as a saavy traveler I carry some with me. Technically you could see the Acropolis out the windows, but you had to look past a decrepit abandoned building next door to see it.

 But the biggest issue was me. As a solo female American traveler, I am used to fending for myself and typically love the independence that traveling alone brings. Finding food, entertainment, and daily necessities are part of the allure of solo travel and have brought me treasured memories from Mexico, Singapore, Germany, Sweden and Hong Kong. But for a few reasons, things just did not click for me in Greece.

As I quickly learned, Greece is a very social culture with a strong pride in providing welcoming hospitality. When you’re staying by yourself in an AirBNB you miss out on all of that.

On the bike tour, one of the murals we stopped by read “Your AirBNB doesn’t have breakfast.” Now, going into this experience I knew that and was ready for it. See, I’m used to crappy continental breakfasts in hotels that can (and should) be skipped in favor of a local greasy spoon or hip brunch spot. But I learned the hard way that this is not the case around the globe.

While other parts of Europe, Singapore and Hong Kong all had excellent breakfast options (I still dream about the congee I had in Sai Ying Pun), Greece thrived on coffee and pastries. Within a 200 meter block of my unit there were four coffee shops. Its also not an early morning city, so when my jetlagged body was ready for a substantial meal at 7am, I was shit out of luck.

Traditional Cheese Pie

I asked my tour guide on the walking tour where to get a good breakfast and he looked at me knowingly and said “You’re in an AirBNB, aren’t you?” He then went on to explain that all hotels in Greece have a full breakfast. If I was in a hotel, I could expect fruit, bread, eggs, yogurt and honey, and all the coffee I could drink.

He then told me about how the explosive growth of AirBNB in Athens has made it next to impossible to find an affordable place to rent. Similar to the issues cropping up in other cities, wealthy investors are buying multiple properties which are then being rented out at inflated prices to tourists. These units are then no longer available for local Athenians, where the average monthly salary is around 700 euros. As Greece emerges from their recent economic crisis, many people are being forced out of the city where they have lived their whole lives because of the scarcity in affordable housing.

The Growth of AirBNB in Athens. Note the rise in entire homes, not just private rooms

The Growth of AirBNB in Athens. Note the rise in entire homes, not just private rooms

Compounding the problem - Greece’s economy relies heavily on tourism. There is a 24% tax on all goods which goes to support infrastructure, restoration projects, and the government. This tax is levied on hotels, but not on AirBNB, causing all sorts of problems.

At this point in my trip, I still had 3 more nights to travel. Two of those nights already had AirBNB lodging lined up, one in Meteora and one near the Athens airport for my last night. If I could’ve cancelled without incurring a fee, I would’ve.

My unit in Meteora was a room in a local woman’s flat. She greeted me at the door with fresh, homemade pie and offered me to join her for dinner. She explained that I was staying in her old roommate’s room who had since moved away, but renting the room on AirBNB allowed her to continue to live in the flat. She offered local tips, a map, and sold guests a homemade olive oil/honey handcreme that I love. Staying with Iliana was a joy – though in similar fashion as before, I was left longing for breakfast and made do with pastries and coffee.

The second to last night of my trip I threw caution to the wind and drove to Galadaxi, a seaside town that came highly recommended on Trip Advisor. Reviews said it wouldn’t be hard to find a room, especially in the offseason and that I should be able to get a hotel room for 30-40 Euros. Sure enough, I landed at the Hotel Galadaxi, a super cute guest house 100 meters from the port.


Hotel Galadaxi

Hotel Galadaxi

The owner greeted me with a warm smile, showed me to my room and detailed his favorite places on a hand drawn map. In the morning, I was greeted with a delicious breakfast including three kinds of bread, yogurt and homemade honey, eggs, and fresh squeezed orange juice. Now this is what I’m talking about!  As I checked out , the owner gave me a jar of homemade marmalade and a magnet to “remember Galadaxi by” and a big hug. If I could’ve stayed another night, I would’ve.

A real Greek Breakfast

A real Greek Breakfast

My last night was in a run-down suburb of Athens close to the airport. Again, the actual AirBNB unit was fine, but I was wishing I had made a different lodging decision.

All of this is a long way of saying if you’re going to Greece, skip the AirBNB and stay local. The Greek economy is still recovering from the crash and they need and appreciate your tourist dollars. Not only that, but you’ll likely have a more enjoyable visit.

The owner of the hotel in Galadaxi

The owner of the hotel in Galadaxi

 More to come soon on the rest of the trip!

 

I went Mountain Biking!

We’re talking real deal, single-track, flow trail, front-suspension bike mountain biking! I know it sounds crazy and that’s because it absolutely was. But it was so much fun and I can’t wait to go again.


My new bike - the Marin Pine Mountain 1

My new bike - the Marin Pine Mountain 1

It all started with the WTF Bike Explorers Summit back in August. I took a CX Bike, the Masi CXGR bike that is on loan to me from Masi Bike. Even though I got the smallest frame they make, I still had to frankenstein the heck out of this bike to get it to fit me – putting a 650b wheel on the front with a big tire, leaving the 700c tire on back, shortening the stem. It still wasn’t great, but it was good enough to ride some trails (or so I thought.)

I totally thought this bike was more than sufficient for bikepacking (and it was), but I was immediately super jealous of everybody else’s setups. They had big squishy tires, lots of clearance, and suspension. Most folks were riding hardtail mountain bikes with front suspension and flat bars and loving it.

For some reason I was convinced that they didn’t make bikes like this to fit me. But here at the Summit were lots of other small people making it happen. Holy shit, there is a rad adventure bike out there for me, I just need to find it! And so the search was on.

Turns out, the search didn’t take very long at all.

Once I got back into town, I put the word out that I was looking for a hardtail bike. Through an online bike forum, I was pointed to a local shop that was blowing out all of their inventory to make room for winter gear. All of their bikes were 40%, making the bike I was interested in $700 – practically an unheard of price for this bike.

True confession time: I bought the bike after a five minute test ride, before ever really going mountain biking. At this point, I hadn’t even been on any beginner trails or taken a class. This could turn out to be a really dumb purchase, but it was a risk I was willing to take.

After more mansplaining than I needed about bike fit, I bought the bike and took it home. It then sat in my apartment for 3 weeks before I got up the courage to use it.

My first ride on it was at Duthie Hill Park. I’ve heard about Duthie for years now but never made it out there now. Holy cow have I been missing out. It is amazing. Beautifully built trails (well, the one I went on repeatedly was beautiful, but I’m assuming the others are as well), great signage, and easy to access.

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As an absolute beginner,  I rode the Bootcamp trail twice, which is the easiest trail there. It’s a one-way cross-country style trail, with lots of berms and turns. According to the stats, it’s 0.9 miles long, with 64’ of ascent and -69’ of descent.

Even though I had no clue what I was doing from a technical standpoint, I had a lot of fun. It was exhilarating to feel a rush of adrenaline from biking again. I can’t even remember how many years it’s been since I felt that!

The following weekend I went with a bunch of friends to Leavenworth, Washington to an out-of-town cyclocross race. I’ve only actually raced once, at Single Speed World Series PDX in 2016, but I still love hanging out and being cross-adjacent. This year, our group of friends rented a house in Leavenworth and spend Saturday mountain biking and Sunday racing/cheering our friends. With my new bike, I could actually join them for the mountain biking!!  

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The plan was to do a shuttle system –two people would drive us all up to the top of Tumwater mountain, then one person would meet us at the bottom and run a second car back up to the top. The thinking was that this would let us get a whole bunch of runs in on some of the most awesome trails in Washington.

Turns out things don’t always go according to plan.

The drive up to the top of the mountain took much longer than anticipated. Like 2 hours longer. One care even bailed on the way up and 4 riders rode half the way up. Not the worst idea and they made it up in the same time as the car.

Once we made it up and reassembled bikes, we got some last minute mountain bike tips from more experienced riders. I learned to put my weight back, brake lightly, and let some air out of my tires. Ooh yeah squishy time.

Finally, we were off to ride.

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Our group of ten varied greatly in skill, from my total newbie status to way more advanced riders on full suspension bikes. To not hold up the entire group, we split into a few groups, agreeing to meet up periodically on the way down, mainly before big turns.

I was by far the slowest in the group, but I went at a pace that I was comfortable with, especially given the advanced nature of the terrain we were on. (The trails we were on ranged between a Blue and Green rating, but they were technically the most difficult I’ve done.) For reference, we rode Freund Canyon and For the Boys (stupid stupid name.)

For some of the advanced riders, I think these trails were probably really easy and an opportunity to practice getting high on the berms. For me, it was heart-pounding, holy-shit I’m going-to-die-any-minute if I make a wrong turn kind of fun.

 As we progressed down the mountain, I learned to trust my instincts on the bike, trust the bike, and had a lot more fun. Going up and over little features was a blast, and I definitely see the appeal of mountain biking. Needless to say, we only went down once and retrieved the car later.

The variety of terrain we went through was striking – one minute it felt like we were riding through an alpine meadow and the next we were on a berm on the side of a mountain about to fall off. We rode through burned out forest sections and onto the side of a ski hill. It was fascinating and made me super curious to do more.

Overall, I’m incredibly happy with my purchase and can’t wait to do more. I have yet to load it up for bikepacking, but am confident that it will do the job.