Welcome to Lisa’s Corner!
Bicycles for Utility and Daily Living
On Thursday, September 22, Commuter Connections in the Virginia, Maryland, and DC is celebrating Car Free Day. The challenge is a worldwide event that encourages greener methods of travel; meaning ways to get around other than driving alone by car.
Entering a challenge is an incentive to get out of your car but there are many reasons to bike instead, which include maintaining good health, saving money, and adding a touch of joy to the process of getting there.
Yet more reasons piled on this year, like a quarterback getting sacked. Prices of cars, SUVs, trucks and gasoline have jumped. This summer, gas prices rose to over $5.00 a gallon, though the prices have dropped some as summer wanes. Plus, we have rising inflation thanks to the war in Ukraine, pandemic initiated supply shortages, and climate change. What’s a person to do who owns a bicycle? Ride it to work, school, and the stores!
The concept of bikes as utility vehicles is not new, but in Northern Virginia, we don’t see many people biking to the grocery store. It’s habit to jump in the car, truck, or SUV and drive 3 miles to the store to get a couple things. Those who live near towns and shopping may want to consider using their bike, even their carbon Thoroughbred with carbon wheels!
Riding your bike is a great way to check off errands and bike ride at once. You – “Honey, I’m going on a bike ride!” Spouse/partner – “I need you to go to the store to pick up eggs!” (More on eggs later.)
Getting set up for grocery errands can be as simple as using a backpack. My daughter in hilly Springfield uses her 30-liter backpack cooler to combine biking for cardio exercise with getting a few groceries at Giant.
Most aluminum and steel bikes have mounts, or braze-ons, on the frame to add a rear and/or front rack. From there, a trunk bag can be added. For more capacity, panniers are the traditional gold standard for hauling goods.
Panniers designed for touring have wonderous capacity and they can really be loaded up. They’re even large enough to stuff in a large pack of toilet paper!
Panniers designed specifically as shopping bags have a flat stiff panel in the bottom. They have the dimensions of a paper grocery bag which will easily insert and fit nicely. Shopping panniers have double handles to carry by hand and are easy to toss in the shopping cart.
Eggs – I have yet to have one broken egg on my many trips home from the store, even after dropping off curbs. Knock wood. Either set them in the bottom with only light stuff on top like bagged salad, coffee in soft packages, etc. Otherwise, put them on the very top.
Other kinds of panniers are designed for the work or school commuter which will usually have an optional shoulder strap. These are good for carrying laptops, books, binders, folders, and a change of clothes if needed.
Speaking of clothes – struggling with the idea of needing to into your padded shorts and kit in order to ride a few miles? Forget it. Let it not be a barrier. Remember when you were a kid and hopped on your bike to ride to a friend’s house, school, or sports practice? Just jump on your bike and go like you did then. Bike shorts aren’t needed for short distances. Try it!
Same with bike shoes. No matter the type pedals on your bike, you can use your sneakers to bike on any pedal, even SPDs. Of course, this is because you won’t need to hammer your way to the store. But you might want your bike shoes if you are hammering to get to work, school, or transit on time.
For cold weather, another barrier to biking, see Dressing for Cold Weather Biking in my first blog below.
Bike trailers are another option for hauling large amounts of goods and large items. Then there are cargo bikes, which one will see more often in DC and Alexandria. These are great for hauling kids and bigger purchases.
Using transit combined with a bicycle is a great way to bridge the distance gap by biking to the Metro station or to meet the bus. Metro allows bikes on the trains all day now. Local busses have bike racks on the front which are easier to use than it looks. To stow your bike in the cargo area of a Loudoun County commuter bus, you will need to fill out the LC Transit Bike on Bus Registration form (see link below). Loudoun Metro stations have bike lockers ready for use.
The best part of biking on errands for me, is the joy I always feel when riding my bike. Nothing like adding a little joy to mundane tasks!
Make a visit to Maverick Bicycles and the staff will help you with questions about racks, panniers, and other bags. Oh, and don’t forget the bike lock!
Here are some links for more information:
Registration for Car Free Day https://www.carfreemetrodc.org/
Here is a fun, deeply-researched video from Path Less Pedaled on the pronunciation of PANNIER, https://www.pathlesspedaled.com/2019/05/how-to-pronounce-pannier/ .
How to load your bike on a local bus front rack, taking bikes on commuter busses, and bike lockers: https://www.loudoun.gov/3396/Bike-Ride
Loudoun County bus schedules: https://www.loudoun.gov/4322/Bus-Services
Bikes on Metro rules: https://www.wmata.com/service/bikes/guidelines.cfm
Brighten Up Your Night-Time Cycling
Story by Lisa Campbell
Photography by Douglas Graham
Bicycling at night can seem like a magical carpet ride. For some reason, the ride seems smoother. The world on two wheels after dark heightens the senses, with no lights on the W&OD and gravel roads to lots of street and car lights in town, and so-so lighting in the suburbs. In the summer, riding after sundown can be especially enjoyable.
However, night-time, dawn, and dusk are the vulnerable hours for those who are biking and walking. These are the times most vehicle crashes occur with bicyclists and pedestrians. Though you have the right-of-way over vehicles, you will be the one injured if drivers cannot see you.
Fall is particularly hazardous because of the change to standard time, and the days keep getting shorter. Add the whitetail rut (breeding season) and you have one more thing to keep your eyes open for. The average male whitetail is well over 100 pounds so hitting one at 20 mph could result in a trip to the ER.
When the sun goes down in the fall, it can suddenly seem pitch dark. If you think there’s any chance you might be delayed on your ride, check the time of sunset and plan on getting those lights on your bike.
Here are some tips to be safe: Your ears are the eyes in the back of your head. Do not wear earbuds or headphones while biking at night. In Virginia, it’s against the law for bicyclists (and drivers) to wear earphones in/on both ears while riding 24/7.
Add a good quality white headlight to your handlebars. Virginia law requires the light be visible for at least 500 ft. between dusk and dawn. Add a flashing red light to the back of your bike. Virginia law requires a minimum of a red reflector that is visible for at least 500 ft. But a red light is more powerful.
Keep your lights recharged if they are powered by lithium batteries. Use the flashing mode on your headlight and taillight in busy traffic conditions, and a steady mode on the headlight when on a dark road or trail for better visibility. (A rechargeable battery will last more hours in flashing mode than steady mode.)
When riding with a powerful headlight in dark conditions, be sure it is pointed down a bit when you see another rider approaching from the opposite direction. If pointed level, it can be absolutely blinding.
Wear high visibility (hi viz) bright light color clothing, jacket or coat such as neon yellow or green, white, light pink, or light blue. Red, which stands out during the day, looks almost black at night.
Add a reflective strip to the back of your backpack, clothing or jacket. Search “reflective tape for clothing” for a variety of options. When riding on a street busy with traffic, your bike light might be “lost” in a mass of bright car lights. Don’t assume that motorists can always see you.
Be sure to look both ways before crossing a street, especially at an intersection with traffic lights. Right-turn-on-red drivers often do not look to the right before pulling out because they are focused on looking for cars to the left.
Use caution when riding on shared-use paths after dark. Many pedestrians do not wear hi viz, assuming they are safe with no cars on the trail. Be especially cautious when riding on the W&OD in or near Leesburg and Purcellville, and in Ashburn and Brambleton.
Ride with awareness, always be prepared to take action to avoid a collision.
Spring is Almost Here! Time to Plan
It’s March, my daffodils are poking up out of the ground and the forsythia is blooming. Finally! Winter is going away!
While some cyclists have kept fit over the winter by riding indoors or riding outside when the weather permitted, others have slacked off. Regardless of your fitness level, the season is upon us. Many of us start looking at ride calendars, and tempting organized rides that keep popping up on Facebook’s newsfeed.
For casual riders, or those who haven’t been on a bicycle for a while, who are interested in jump starting the season, Revolutions by Maverick has a program for you. On Tuesday, March 17, 6:00 pm, come join us for my bicycle safety refresher course and then a short community 4-mile ride around Leesburg. After the ride, Dönor Bistro, our neighbor in Virginia Village, has offered a 20% discount to all participants to come by and enjoy St. Patrick’s Day libations and food. For more information on the class, go to https://revolutionsmaverickllc.com/event/season-opener-bicycle-safety-class-community-ride/
The regular Tuesday Night Ride will start on March 24 with a departure time of 6:00 for casual riders and those just starting the season. Revolutions by Maverick plans to have rides for different levels – casual 10-12 mph W&OD rides, 15+ mph road rides, and gravel rides. Our Facebook page and website will be updated with details as those rides come available. Some exciting organized rides, coming up this season, are worth mentioning, and having a ride to aim for provides excellent motivation to get in the saddle.
For gravel riders, the Loudoun 1725 Gravel Grinder is an outstanding event to experience. Salamander Resort in Middleburg is the launch site on routes that will take you through the best of the area’s gravel roads. The event’s website best describes it, “Located east of the Blue Ridge, in lush Loudoun Valley, these crushed rock roadways meander through awe inspiring beauty, past stone walls, grand estates, horse farms, wineries, bubbling creeks, tiny hamlets, and significant historical sites. Riding these roads is a sublime experience – like stepping back in time and cycling through history.” Mark your calendar for Sunday, June 14, for a 40, 60, or 80 mile ride. Revolutions by Maverick’s staff will be volunteering. Look for service manager, Justin Hanger at Philomont Store, ready to fix what ails your bike. For more information, go to https://www.ex2adventures.com/loudoun-1725-gravel-grinder/
Ever dream about riding the whole C&O Canal? All 184.5 miles from Cumberland, Md., to Washington, DC? For many cyclists, the logistics are overwhelming. San Mar Family and Community Services in Boonsboro, Md., has been running an annual C&O ride as a fundraiser for the past 32 years. This year, it is July 11-14. I have participated in this ride twice and I can’t say enough about the best quality of care the staff and volunteers provide the riders. This is a four-day ride. On day one, they schlep you (on a coach bus), your bike and baggage to Cumberland from Boonsboro, and from there you take off. Your baggage will be waiting for you at the end of the ride each day. Rest stops, lunch breaks and catered dinners are provided. The riders camp the first two nights at campgrounds with showers and swimming pools. The third night, everyone goes to a hotel. For an extra fee, those who aren’t into camping will be taken to a
hotel. Riders must fundraise a minimum of $475, darn cheap compared to tour company prices. For more information, go to https://sanmartgbt.org/
Want to bike Washington, DC on roads closed to traffic? The 20-mile DC Bike Ride is set for Saturday, May 16. This is a mostly flat ride with a few short hills in the Georgetown area. Imagine riding on busy roads, but now car free, like the Whitehurst Freeway, I-395 HOV lane, Rock Creek Parkway, and around the Mall area. The rides start in three waves, with the more experienced riders going first. The end of the ride and celebration takes place on Pennsylvania Avenue with food trucks and live music. The fun factor ranks high in my book. For more information, go to https://dcbikeride.com/
While these are a few of my favorite rides, there are other well-organized fun rides in the DMV area, as well as many out of town rides. Potomac Pedalers Touring Club, based in the DC area, offers a regular ride schedule and has a great list of out-of-area rides. To drool over the list, go to https://www.potomacpedalers.org/out-bounds
We at Revolutions by Maverick Bicycles look forward to seeing you this spring, and helping you get yourself and your bicycle ready for the season.
Dressing for Cold Weather Riding
Many of you, like me, are still feeling the effects of the holidays and binge eating that racked up unneeded calories, now on the waistline. Despite the fact that it is now winter, the pull of cycling never leaves my mind, craving this form of meditation, de-stressing, and calories burned all in one package. The spin of the crank turns in my head.
As I write this, it is a typical Northern Virginia winter day – snow to start, a lull in the action, then sleet turning to rain later on. Not good cycling weather. Nevertheless, we do have a good number of winter days in this region that are bikeable outdoors. Don’t let a little chill stop you! The big battle of outdoor winter riding is the cold and the wind chill we generate as we go. Take a 35-degree day with no wind for instance – ride at 12 mph and it will feel like 26 degrees. What do we do when we go outside in 26 degrees? We bundle up in layers! Layers is the key word for two reasons. 1) layers trap more warm air near the body; 2) as we warm up, we can peel them off to avoid getting overheated.
Merino wool is a miracle fabric for active outdoor people. It is wicking and has magical heat trapping properties that synthetics can’t match. The hair fibers, which keep sheep warm in the worst climates, are hollow. And it’s soft, not itchy. Merino wool tops, underwear and socks, aka base layers, tend to be thin, perfect for layering. I ride on cold days with two layers of merino wool tops, and then a windbreaker or jacket over that. Sometimes a heavy vest over the windbreaker as the temps drop. Over my fingerless cycling gloves, I pull on a cheap pair of full-fingered gloves, which are easy to pull off and stuff in a pocket as I warm up. A thin stretchy tube of fabric called a gator is the best invention for cyclists! You can look like an alligator by pulling it on with just your face poking out, and pull the backside of it down on your neck. Bike helmets will fit over top of it, and your ears and neck will stay warm. If you get too warm, just pull the top down so it is bunched up on your neck. If you are still too warm, it is easy to pull off and stuff in a pocket. The shop has a full line of cold-weather riding clothes, jackets, and accessories that are carefully designed to keep riders comfortable. The racks have an array of winter gloves, merino base layers, riding tights, balaclavas, toe warmers, and full boots to go over cycling shoes. Anyone on the staff will be happy to advise you as they all have kept riding despite the cold.
This winter, a group of us has kept on riding the Thursday 10:00 am ride from the shop except on days of high winds or icy trail conditions. We have found ourselves riding in temps as low as 27 degrees with a breeze. Each of us has experimented with layering, and with each ride we learn what works best, layering with what we have in the drawers and closets at home. Some have invested in cycling foot warmers, merino wool, and different jackets. It tends to be a topic of discussion before we set out on our rides, often 15-20 miles roundtrip on the W&OD and off-trail east of Leesburg on the growing network of multi-use trails.
We are lucky here in Loudoun County to have the W&OD Trail which goes right through the towns on its route. For most residents, it is a short ride or drive to access it. NOVA Parks does a wonderful job of keeping it clear of downed limbs and trees, blowing off the leaves and debris, and just keeping an eye on it. However, snow and ice are tricky. With the winter sun so low in the sky, sometimes ice patches of frozen run-off just won’t thaw because the sun does not reach the pavement.
Of course, a lot of people are not able to get outdoors very often in the winter because of short daylight hours. They either work or go to school during the daytime, or tend a family. Their options to stay cycling-fit include joining a gym or investing in a home trainer. Loudoun County community centers with gym equipment are inexpensive alternatives to annual gym memberships. HPC Cycling is another option for cyclists who want to keep in tip-top fitness.
Riders bring their own bikes to ride on trainers connected to a computer. Each rider is riding with his or her own set of goals though the session is the same workout plan for everyone. HPC is located in the shop, and ask for Sue or Pierre to learn more.
But for the mind and spirit, stationary cycling is no match for getting outdoors. So come join us for our Thursday rides if your schedule permits. Watch for weekend rides as the weather and conditions allow. These rides will be posted on Revolutions by Maverick’s Facebook page and on the Greater Loudoun Bicycling Meetup page.
Revolutions by Maverick has given me this great opportunity to share lots of ideas and musings with you. Posts will include all things bicycles, bicycling, trails, trips, news, and of course, safety.
Watch for posts about special shop rides and events in the works, new places to ride, maintenance tips, noteworthy organized rides coming up, innovative products on the market for cyclists, and other topics of interest.
Look for updates as Loudoun County evolves to become more and more bikeable every year. We can ride more places using new and improved connections to the W&OD Trail and new multi-use trails thanks to Bike Loudoun, working behind the scenes.
Safety – I know this subject may not be high on anyone’s list, judging from the attendance at safety lectures. But nationwide, there has been an uptick in the number cyclists’ fatalities. 6.3% in 2018. But more on that in another post.
I’m looking forward to this journey with you.