Stoked Spoke Adventure Series

Tomorrow is the January edition of the 4th Annual Stoked Spoke Adventure Series, hosted by Swift Industries. For the 3rd year in a row, I’ll be presenting on one of my favorite routes from the previous year.

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This year I’ll be talking about the bikepacking route I did in Montana. If you want a sneak peak of what I’ll be sharing, take a look at my trip write up

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I’m eternally grateful to Jason and Martina from Swift for hosting this series, which has been instrumental in getting me out on my bike for rad adventures and in this blog. It was at Stoked Spoke that I first realized I like telling stories about my bike adventures and that people are interested in hearing about them.

Hope to see you all out at the Rhino Room tomorrow at 7pm!

Biking While Fat – Four Things I Wish I Had Known When I Started Riding

As a fat woman that rides a bike who is vocal about my adventures, body acceptance and good times on a bicycle, I’m often asked for advice. From picking a bike to my favorite routes to dealing with chub-rub, I get asked all sorts of things. And turns out, I know things!

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So I've decided to share it with all of you. Bike advice for fellow fatties. Chubby people. Plus size cyclists.

Whatever you want to call yourself, there are some specific things to keep in mind when it comes to two-wheeled adventure, including picking a bike, figuring out what clothes to wear, and finding your people.

So, without further ado, Things I Wish I had Known When I Started Riding Bikes.

p.s. These are helpful tips for anyone, if you’re fat or not. 

p.p.s. I don’t ride to lose weight. Full stop. I ride for fun, transportation, adventure, and exercise. So if you’re reading this looking for advice on how to lose weight by riding a bike, I can’t help you. In fact, if you go on a ride with me, I will likely make sure you’re well fed and in no danger of bonking mid-ride. That means stopping for snacks, listening to our bodies, and checking in. Also eating ice cream.

1. Find a bike that works for you.

Ask yourself the following questions (before you go to the bike shop):

What kind of riding do you plan on doing?

  • Commuting to from/work
  • Carrying groceries or running other errands
  • Riding for exercise every now and again
  • Going on adventures, such as touring or camping
  • Racing/serious fitness riding

Sure there are bikes that could in theory do all of the above, but you’ll be a lot happier with a purpose-built bike.

What surfaces do you plan on riding?

  • Road only
  • Mixed road, trail, gravel
  • Anything and everything!

Does bike material matter to you?

Modern bikes are primarily made out of three materials – steel, aluminum, and carbon (some really expensive bikes are made out of titanium too.)

Most entry-level bikes are aluminum, but I would caution heavier riders to do their research and perhaps look into steel, as they tend to have higher weight limits. This especially becomes a factor if you plan on carrying cargo.

If you are shy about how much you weigh, do this research before you go to the bike shop. Most manufacturers have their weight limits listed online, and in my experience, many bike shop employees are not experienced at working with bigger people and won’t know the weight limits for the bikes.

 Bike weight limit diagram from Specialized's Manual

Bike weight limit diagram from Specialized's Manual

Other things to think about when choosing a bike:

Wheel Strength – All wheels are created equally, right? I thought so too and for a long time, couldn’t figure out why I kept breaking spokes on my road bike. Finally, a bike mechanic that I trust dearly told me that I needed stronger wheels for the type of riding and stress I was putting my bike under. Talk to an experienced wheel building (oh hey Sugar Wheel Works) or your at your local shop about what kind of wheels you need to support your weight.

Tire width – Take a look at the tires on the bike you plan on buying. The wider the tire, the more cushion-y the ride will be (in most cases.) Wider tires also give you more flexibility to run them at lower pressures, without risking a pinch flat. As a heavier rider, I urge you to invest in a good pump for your house and check your tires before every ride. Fill your tires to the recommended PSI on the tire and you’ll run less risk of flatting out.

E-bike? - A great option if you want to get on a bike, but maybe have a longer commute in mind. 

REI has a really good, in-depth article about the different types of bikes, materials, wheel sizes, handle-bar styles, and other technical mumbo-jumbo that I didn’t cover.

p.s. Don’t forget that you can change things on your bike after you buy it, such as the saddle, pedals, handle bars, etc. A little change can make a big difference in comfort!

TLDR: Figure out what kind of riding you want to do, research before you go into a bike store, and try out lots of bikes before you buy.

2. Wear clothes that make you feel good!

When I first started riding, I thought to be taken seriously I needed to wear the right clothes including spandex, clip in shoes, and the tiny little bike hats. Not only did that get expensive fast, but it became an exercise in frustration as I was constantly searching for “bike clothing” in my size.  

(To be fully transparent, I usually wear between a 16-18 dress size, size 18 jeans, and an XL in women’s tops. I can squeeze into an XXL yoga pant from Target or Old Navy, but most standard size athletic brands are off the table.)

Now that I’ve logged a few thousand more miles, I’ve come to realize that I can ride my bike in anything, but the key factor is comfort. If I don’t feel confident and comfortable, I’m not going to want to ride no matter the distance.

This is not to say that bike clothes don’t work for bigger people. Many people swear by them for the sports performance factor, and I will often wear cycling bibs for my longer rides as I love the built in chamois. But for everyday riding, I stick to wool layers in the winter, dresses and leggings in the spring/fall, and tank tops in the summer. My absolute saving grace has been a rain cape– it keeps me dry but not too sweaty, and it fits no matter what size I am!

Some athletic brands are getting better about expanded size ranges, and both times I've asked bike specific lines about XXL, they've sent me product samples to try. Great work Redfrog Athletics and Wild Rye for working on this! (Any other brands looking for people to test out your gear, I'm here!! I'll try it and tell you honest reviews!)

So wear what makes you feel good. End of story.

3.  Find your people. They are out there.

No matter what kind of riding you want to do, there is somebody else who is looking for it too or who is already doing it. From organized group rides at your local bicycle club to training rides to get in shape for a charity ride to Kidical Mass rides, there are literally cycling groups for every single interest out there.

Recommended places to start include MeetUp.com, your local bike club, and Facebook. And while it might be intimidating to go for your first ride, remember that we all started somewhere.

 Wheel Women Australia have been riding together since 2012!

Wheel Women Australia have been riding together since 2012!

4.  You don’t owe anybody anything

As a larger bodied person riding a bicycle, you might find yourself subject to stares and comments from people on the street. If your life is anything like mine, this is nothing outside the normal.

Just remember that you don’t owe them a response, you don’t owe them acknowledgment, you do not owe them anything.

You have every right to enjoy your time on your bicycle and they can just mind their own damn business.

So, there you have it. What else would you add to this list?

2017 Year in Review

Dear Friends, Family, and Internet Strangers who Read This,

2017 is rapidly ending, and with it, one of the best years of my life. You’ve likely seen many of these highlights on social media, however, it’s been fun as the year comes to a close to reflect on the year that was, and look forward to 2018.


Travels Near and Far

2017 brought a lot of travel my way, including both work and personal. Favorite trips included:

  • Hong Kong
  • Stockholm
  • Paris
  • Bend, Oregon
  • Dalles, Oregon
  • New York City
  • Tampa Bay, Florida
  • Glacier National Park
  • Olympic National Park

The skyline over Hong Kong, night market in Hong Kong, Elwah River Valley, Maryhill Loops Road, and Dalles, Oregon trip. Scroll right for all photos.


Accomplishments

2017 also brought a number of significant personal and professional accomplishments. While settling more into my role of Global Environmental Manager at Expeditors, I was instrumental in helping my company win an award as an Inbound Logistics 2017 Green Supply Chain Partner. Everyday at work brings new challenges as we work to measure and reduce our environmental impact.

The women's bike race I help put on every summer had a record number of racers and was more successful than ever, and we just went through a rebranding process. Most fun, two of the bike adventures I went on were written up in Adventure Cycling!

Gals Ride the Dalles - My Birthday Ride in the Dalles, Oregon 

Detour the Divide - Gravel Grinding Bikepacking ride through Montana

Also, the With These Thighs project got a bunch of great press, took off on Instagram, and has had a bunch of success! Huge thank you to each of you who has embraced your body, bought stickers, told your friends about it, and most importantly, loved yourself for just who you are!


Personal Life

Most years, I haven't had much in the way of "personal life" stuff to write about. Sure, there's been a few dates here and there, but nothing that's noteworthy to tell the family/friends/internet about. But, this year I met a gem of a person and I'm pretty darn happy about it.

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We've been hanging out since July and make each other pretty happy. Turns out, relationships can be a really great thing when they're mutually supportive, loving, and healthy.

In 2017, I also got a therapist. About damn time.


I wish you all a happy, healthy, peaceful 2018. I hope whatever holidays you celebrate are joyful, that your discussions around the holiday table are productive (remember, climate change is real and its ok to talk about it), and may your New Year bring you everything you wish for!

 

 

 

 

Do I Even Like Riding a Bike Anymore?

I broke my foot in mid-August doing something really stupid and mundane. Starting to pedal, I jammed my foot onto my pedal, missed the platform and crunched the shit out my foot. Two cracked metatarsals, and nearly 4 months later, I'm still not back to my regular self. Apparently when you're over 30, bones take a long time to heal. 

This injury was a huge pain the butt bummer. I had to skip the Solar Eclipse Campout Bike Ride with Komorebi and Friends on Bikes . I went to NYC in a walking boot (which I promptly ditched for a CitiBike. Don't tell my doctor.) My foot is still a funky shape and shoes no longer fit the same, but I did buy Crocs! 

Thankfully, I am now healed enough to walk around without a limp (as long as it's not over a mile) and biking is no longer painful. This does mean I've taken nearly 4 months off my bike. Which feels like forever.

And now that I can get back on the bike, I haven't been quick to get back on. My first "long" ride was Cranskgiving last weekend, and it was 16 miles. Have I touched my bike since? Nope. Somehow, I went from a daily bike rider to an every-once-in-a-while rider.

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I feel like my bike is a friend that I've lost touch with, and am not sure how to start the conversation again. In the time that I've been off, the seasons changed and it's now cold outside.

Instead of riding in whatever I happen to be wearing (usually a dress), I'll need to actually think about my clothing and the functionality of it on a bike.

In this season of change and difficulty, I'm trying to be gentle on myself. Just because I don't ride today or this week, doesn't mean I can't start again when the weather gets good. I started from zero a few years ago, and I can always start again.

 

Five Things You Can Do Today To Fight Climate Change

This post deviates a bit from the typical subject matter on my blog, but has been weighing on my mind heavily. Aside from riding my bike, I have a full-time job as an Environmental Manager. I spend my days managing the sustainability program for a Fortune 500 company- everything from the recycling program to our carbon footprint to shipping efficiency. I get asked every day what we can do to mitigate our impact on the planet and if what we're doing is actually making a difference. In the big scheme of things, I'm not entirely sure that it is. But, I go to work every day with the optimism and hope that it is. We got ourselves into this situation, and now we need to work to get ourselves out of it.


From crazy strong hurricanes to raging wildfires to 80 degree days in October, the scale and scope of our changing weather patterns feels overwhelming. From being a far-off concept that our grandchildren would need to deal with, we’re now faced with the reality of a changing climate.

 Three hurricanes churn in the Atlantic Ocean in an image released by NOAA on September 6, 2017 (image via ABCnews.com)

Three hurricanes churn in the Atlantic Ocean in an image released by NOAA on September 6, 2017 (image via ABCnews.com)

And often when we talk about the solutions to global warming, we hear about solutions that require massive investment or government scale action to implement such as solar farms or offshore wind farms. It’s easy to feel helpless as an individual.

There are many innovative solutions, however, that are incredibly impactful and are easy to do as just one person.

All 5 of the ideas I’m going to present below are from Project Drawdown. The book is an absolute eye-opener, presenting a down-to-earth, approachable solution to global warming. In less than 250 pages it presents 80 tangible solutions that if implemented could reverse global warming. If you’re looking for an optimistic view on climate change with tangible solutions, check out this project.

They have meticulously researched a bunch of solutions that are already in practice around the globe and ranked the CO2 and monetary savings, and if all of the solutions they put forth are implemented, we can reach a point where we are taking more CO2 from the atmosphere than we are putting in (i.e. the Drawdown point.)

 So, back to these 5 solutions. Can you really make a difference as an individual? Yes. We are a global community made up of individuals and to start to make a difference we all must start making changes in our everyday behavior. Here are a few ideas for changes that I think we can work towards:

1.       Eat a plant rich diet

Not vegan, not even vegetarian (though that’s great if you want to go that far), but eat a lot more plants and less meat.  If cows were their own nation, they would emit the third largest greenhouse gases, behind China and USA.  There are all sorts of added benefits to consuming less meat including health benefits, less deforestation, and water savings (cows drink a lot of water, growing grains for feed takes water, etc.).

 Veggies from my CSA box last fall

Veggies from my CSA box last fall

If this was adopted at a reasonable, but vigorous rate, in 2020-2050, we could save 66.11 gigatons of CO2e.*

2.       Reducing Food Waste

This one seems like a no-brainer. Nobody likes to waste food, as it’s just throwing money in the trash (or in Seattle, in the compost bin.) The food we waste is also responsible for roughly 8 percent of global emissions.

                In low-income countries, food waste is generally due to challenges in distribution, food storage, or other challenges along the point of distribution. Only 3% of food waste in low-income countries comes at the point of consumption.

In high income countries, such as the US, it’s a different story however. Nearly 20% of food is wasted at the point of consumption. Think about the last time you saw a crooked carrot, or ugly apple. We’ve selectively eliminated this produce from our stores, but it still grows. This imperfect produce that is willfully wasted is still perfectly nutritious and could be eaten by any of the hungry people in our country.

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In your own home, you can make a difference on this front by buying only the food that you will eat, and if you live on the West Coast there is now a service that sells Imperfect Produce. Other ideas include doing a food waste audit, sharing meals when you go out (to reduce left overs), and learning what the “Sell-By”, “Best-By”, and “Use-By” dates mean (hint-nothing, the USDA doesn’t regulate them.)

3.       Buy from farms that practice regenerative agriculture

First a quick primer on Regenerative Agriculture : A farming practice that enhances and sustains the health of the soil by restoring its carbon content, which in turn improves productivity—just the opposite of conventional agriculture. Farms that practice this will do such things as:

  • no tillage,
  • diverse cover crops,
  • in-farm fertility (no external nutrients),
  • no pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, and
  • multiple crop rotations.

Why does this matter? It’s estimated that 50% of the world’s carbon in the earth’s soils has been released into the atmosphere in the past centuries. Restoring this through regenerative agriculture will allow the soil to act once again as a carbon sink and help restore the balance. It’s estimated that by 2050, we could see a reduction of 23.2 gigatons of carbon dioxide, from both sequestration and reduced emissions.

 

So how do I know if a farm is practicing this?  Look on the label, or ask at the farmers market!! Shop local! A quick google search turned up 3 CSAs in Seattle that practice regenerative farming!

4.       Recycle your Refrigerator & Air Conditioner Responsibly

At this point you’re probably saying “Ok, Marley…these are cool, but what about recycling? When are you going to tell me to recycle and ride my bike?” Well, here you go! Recycle your refrigerator! Before reading Drawdown, I have to admit to not really thinking about refrigerants as a contributor to global warming. At all. But, we should all be thinking about fridges and air conditioners a lot more, as they’re the #1 opportunity to reverse global warming.

 Air Conditioners line the windows of Hong Kong (photo from my trip in February)

Air Conditioners line the windows of Hong Kong (photo from my trip in February)

A quick lesson on these bad boys that make life a whole lot more comfortable. All ACs and fridges use a chemical concoction to cool things. Prior to 1987 they primarily used CFCs and HCFCs to work their magic. Those caused the hole in the ozone layer that any 90s kid could tell you all about. The 1987 Montreal Protocol phased those out, but their replacement HFCs are actually worse (1000 to 9000 times more warming power than carbon dioxide!!!!)

So what to do in a rapidly warming & developing world? Air conditioning definitely makes things more comfortable, especially with increasing heat waves. Well, a new agreement was reached in 2016 that will start to phase out the HFCs starting in 2019 (for high income countries) and 2024 for low income countries. The crux of the issue is that 90% of emissions from refrigerants come at the end of life, so it’s essential that proper disposal happens. Don’t dump these appliances- get them to your local recycling center, where the refrigerants can be disposed of properly!

5.       Advocate for Education for Girls & Women

This is perhaps my favorite action that you can take because it’s relevant to each and every one of us. Research shows time and again that women with more years of education have fewer and healthier children, and actively manage their reproductive health. This helps contribute to overall population growth and fewer emissions.  I’m going to quote this next part directly from Drawdown because it’s just so damn powerful:

Educated girls realize higher wages and greater upward mobility, contributing to economic growth. Their rates of maternal mortality drop, as do mortality rates of their babies. They are less likely to marry as children or against their will. They have lower incidence of HIV/AIDS and malaria. Their agricultural plots are more productive and their families better nourished.
Education also shores up resilience and equips girls and women to face the impacts of climate change. They can be more effective stewards of food, soil, trees, and water, even as nature’s cycles change. They have greater capacity to cope with shocks from natural disasters and extreme weather events.
Today, there are economic, cultural, and safety-related barriers that impede 62 million girls around the world from realizing their right to education. Key strategies to change that include:
    make school affordable;
  help girls overcome health barriers;
  reduce the time and distance to get to school; and
 make schools more girl-friendly.

So, what can you, as a relatively well-to-do person do to help education women and girls? Well, first, get educated on the situation. Even though our reproductive rights are being threatened by the current administration, we are compartively incredibly priveldged. Learn about what is happening around the globe to women and children. Then, pick a cause to help. 

Read up on these campaigns from the UN and get involved in one that speaks to you: http://www.unwomen.org/en/get-involved#campaigns

Here's a great way to get involved online: https://www.empowerwomen.org/en

Or, you can always donate money directly to the UN:  https://donate.unwomen.org/

So, there you have it! 5 relatively simple things you can start doing today to combat climate change. And yes, you should still reduce your single occupant vehicle trips, recycle, compost, ride your bike, consume less, use less electicity, all of those things.

I’d love to hear other ideas you’re doing and how you’re staying optimistic in this time of global stress.

 

*A note on gigatons and CO2e. A gigaton is really hard to imagine, because it’s really really really big. As The Washington Post wrote in 2015, “In the International System of Units, the prefix “giga” means 109, or one billion (1,000,000,000). Hence terms like “gigawatt” or “gigahertz.” Thus, a gigaton is equivalent to a billion metric tons. A male African elephant might weigh, at most, 6.8 metric tons, according to the San Diego Zoo. So a gigaton is well over a hundred million African elephants. As for sea life, the blue whale can weigh as much as 146 metric tons, according to NOAA. So a gigaton is more than 6 million blue whales.” (from this article https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/07/01/meet-the-gigaton-the-huge-unit-that-scientists-use-to-track-planetary-change/ )

As for CO2e, it’s an abbreviation for CO2 equivalent.  It’s the internationally recognized way of talking about greenhouse gases, so when we talk about CO2e, we’re talking about more than just CO2 – it’s all greenhouse gases.