an online exhibition to explore civic engagement and the cycling community
here is the place to speak your voice, share that ride you wished never ended, glimpse the trail through another's eyes...stories we all relate to and want to remember...this is the collection.

from across the city to across the world, cyclists all have one thing in common, our love to share today's, yesterdays' and tomorrows' experience with our fellow riders.

find your story among the others...and ride on.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The following is an excerpt from "Diary of a Fixin' Vixen," an essay written by E. Cockerham in 2009:
...I work at a bike shop because I love to build and work on bicycles. There’s always something new coming in the front door. Sometimes it’s quite literally half of a bike, (for not everyone remembers that they’ve mounted their frame to the roof rack before pummeling into the garage.) Other times I’ve had to cut open foam-stuffed wheelchair tires with a hacksaw just to get them off the factory wheels. A man brought in two bikes from somewhere in rural Summerfield, and the most beautiful spider with fuzzy legs and colorful UFO-shaped eyes crawled out of the seat tube. My coworker even happened upon a small family of mice inside a bicycle box- they had been shipped all the way from California!

I love the hiiiisssss of the air compressor as I inflate a newly changed tube, the grawahawahaeeeehhh!!! of the grinding machine as I round off the edges of a shortened seat post, and I even like the smell of rubber tires and degreaser that linger on my clothes after I return home from it all. I love using the derailleur hanger-straightening tool to fix “hopping” across rear cogs, and I take great satisfaction in making a 1970s steel-frame road bike shift its gears like new. I love cutting off new cable housing, capping the ends with ferrules, lacing new cables though, setting tension screws, and replacing dried-up old brake pads with fresh new rubber ones. And then, stuffing my pocket precariously with a 5mm hex and a petite flathead screwdriver, I relish the feel of zooming out between parked cars outside in search of an open space to test out my handiwork.

Do we work in an immediately sexist environment? The kinds of people we encounter on a daily basis are continuously giving us pause for re-evaluation. When a gruff six-foot-two mustached man with pocket protector challenges our shop dynamics by implying that only one half of population here can be successful mechanics, it’s funny-- but it’s also depressing. Afterward, it’s almost as if we become sexist ourselves, for a bit, too.

The attitudes we collectively encounter and have to handle with a gender-specific response sometimes can alter our own behaviors during the next half-hour or so. “His bicycle will probably be worked on by me. I should stuff the seat tubes and handlebars with tampons.” Or, “Well, little lady, it can’t be helped. We both know I am the one with the penis, sooo… guess that means I'll need call him for some man-chat after you do all the reapirs on his bicycle.” The shop fluctuates between tension and laughter. In our antics of re-enactment, we go through a temporary state of extreme sexism ourselves- (strange, but necessary. )

We chuckle and point out the funnier things about our situation because it’s all we can do, but we also do it because it clears the air and allows us to come to terms with who we still are as a shop. Like children playing house, we re-enact the chauvinist things we see and hear as sort of a way of dealing with the ignorance that often steps through our shop door. It’s both funny and more effective to translate the naiveties into our own interactions. It eases the stifling effects of working with a public made up of widely varied backgrounds.

If a repair is small enough to not consume too much time, we are often able to work on a customer’s bike or wheel while they wait. I think the biggest leaps forward for public perception about gal mechanics happens during those short repairs. A father drops off his kid’s bike, for example, and decides to wait with his son and his daughter while I re-install a set of fenders, change a 20” tube, and tighten the brakes for him. At some point, the children usually get curious and dart into the work area, followed by a reprimand by the parents to get back out and stay by their side. But! After peeking around to get a glimpse of “What’s that weird noise, Daddy?” (Air compressor) or “Why’s she got the biciggle up high?” (Work stand) or just flat out shyly exclaiming their Mom or Dad, “It’sah girl working on my bike!”

Kids are used to seeing their dads struggle with tool-stuff, and they’re accustomed to seeing their moms drop off the car with a male auto-mechanic. In most families, children still come to expect certain roles to be played out by specific genders. Had a flat coming back from the Aquarium at the beach without Daddy along? A kind man stopped out of good will to help the stranded mother and children. What about when the AC broke and everyone was all sweaty and miserable, until the repairman came... I’m not a feminist in any kind of extreme sense; I don’t have the time to get angry or offended when someone acts surprised about exchanging their money for my labours, "it is what it is."

I chose to learn how to work on bikes because I love riding them and I like to work with my hands, not because I wanted to prove myself in what has been until now, a mostly male- dominated industry. And I haven’t really proven anything, if you take into account all the episodes of sexism I still come across! By simply being here, though, maybe i'm helping to plant new ideas in both the children and their parents who visit our shop in order to get back on the road. A little boy finally sees that maybe he should’ve let his sister help repair his broken GI Joe after all, or a little girl who always holds back from “boy” activities might see that it is not a trade-off! She can get her hands dirty and learn to more self-sufficient, all while still retaining her identity as a female!

So, if your bike is broken, your tire has gone flat, or your mechanical abilities evade your grasp, consider asking the “skirt” to do it. You’ll thank yourself later!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Climbing Alamagre

Many years back I had probably done one of my hardest rides ever. We were living in Colorado Springs at the time. We started out the day with close to twenty riders. The talk was that we were going to climb to the top of Alamagre Mountain. That's the peak between the famous Pike's Peak and Cheyenne Mountain with Norad in it. Our starting point was my house which was at about 6300 feet in Cheyenne Canyon to the top of Alamagre or as the locals called it Mt. Baldy which rests at 12300 feet. It was a beautiful day, sun was high in the sky with not one cloud visible. Everybody was talking about the ride and how it was gonna be fun and all that.

We head out climbing on a fire road called Lower Gold Camp Road, than Upper Gold Camp. Upper Gold Camp is an old narrow guage railroad bed that used to carry miners up into the mountain gold rush towns back in the day. Its kinda cool thinkin about the fact that your climbing this road for a total leisure hobby and back in the day these gold rush miners were taking this road to an uncertain future. They might have been striking their fortune in gold or coming down sick with something or meeting any number of untimely ends. The talk about how much fun the ride's gonna be starts to dissapate a little bit as the heavy breathing kills conversation and the sweat starts stingin the eyes.

The smoothness of gold camp gives off as we jump onto Old Stage Road. This road goes from Colorado Springs all the way into the mountains to one of these cheesy little towns that turned itself into a tiny little Las Vegas to sustain itself. Old men and women drag oxygen bottles with one hand cause they're above ten thousand feet of elevation while smokin cigarettes with the other hand. They sit and gamble the day away oblivious to our suffering or the suffering of a bunch of rough and tumble gold miners from a couple hundred years past.

After a few hours we get to the top of Captain Jack's. It's a pretty famous local mountain bike trail. It's about 14 miles long, and starts at about 10,ooo feet of elevation. Mostly downhill, this trail is still really hard for the few climbs that are in it, all of them above 9000 feet.

While we sit there and eat our power bars and other energy food, a couple of guys start to talk about things they have to do at home. Everybody knows what we came here to do yet here we go...excuses. A few of the guys actually man up and say it's to much for them and they're gonna bail at right here and ride down Captain Jack's. The others talk about honey-do lists or some other such nonsense cause they won't admit it's kickin their ass.

When it all comes down to it, Craig , Tony and I go on from there. From just shy of 20 riders down to 3. From here it's gettin steeper and the elevation is makin our forward progress feel like pedaling through mud the whole rest of the way. The last stretch of the climb breaks the three of us up pretty bad, everyone struggling at their own pace. The trees disappear at about 11,500 feet. So does the oxygen for that matter. Gettin off and pushing the bike doesn't really do a whole lot of good. It just makes your feet hurt more and pushes you back on the bike.

I think I was behind Tony and Craig that day to the top. It's hard to remember cause the top is probably what I remember the most about the whole climb. And the fact that I made it and got to see that view. I powered myself up this whole mountain on my bike. I didn't come up with some excuse about stuff to do around the house or some other nonsense - though at times before we got to the peak I wished I had. No, what I remember the most about that climb is the fact that when the three of us were sitting there, we talked about how much fun we had. Getting up that climb was really anything but fun. Sitting at 12,300 feet of elevation and checking out the view kinda made you forget about what you had gone through to get there.

We sat there and joked for about half an hour, then headed downhill. It was freakin amazing how fast you went down what took so much work to get up a little while ago. No pedaling and you're flying at above thirty miles an hour off road downhill. It takes us barely any time at all to get back to Captain Jack's. Down Cap Jack's and walking all the technical sections cause I'm to tired to crash. I'd just lay there and cry if I did crash at this point. I'm gettin real tired. With no incidents we make it to the bottom and get to my front porch. Seven and half hours, 47 miles and over 6000 feet of climbing, and we're on my front porch drinkin beer.

Now the talk turns to how all those other guys wussed out and missed an awesome ride. Deep down inside I'm sure each one of us doesn't really think it was an awesome ride. We just did it and they didn't and thats what it comes down to. It was an accomplishment. I've been more physically taxed on rides before or since but I still don't think I have ever felt that same sense of accomplishment that I had that day.

Monday, March 16, 2009


the following story is an excerpt sent to me by Cory, in Raleigh, NC about his trip on the Bike and Build last year. you can check out the rest of his ride on his blog corysbiketrip.blogspot.com...

I have never seen anything so beautiful in my life. 3 days ago it was: "I've never seen anything so scary in my life." I can now say that, in one day, I biked from 8,000 ft. above sea level up to 12,000 and back down. It was hands down the hardest thing I have ever put myself through physically, and arguably the best day of my life.

I have to start from the beginning, though. Leaving Boulder was a very nerve racking. We would climb about 3,000 ft. in about 30 miles. It would be the hardest day of my life, but only for a few short hours. I would have to bike about a mile or a mile and a half then stop catch my breath, eat something, and keep going. The uphill biking was challenging, but even more difficult was dealing with the climate changes in the higher altitude. I thought our lunch stop was going to be near 24 miles in. This is where I ran out of water, only to find that, around the corner, the grade of the road increased for about 3 more miles. I would literally ride 100 feet and stop, over and over again. I finally made it into the small mountain town of Ward and lunch. After lunch, I experienced a few miles of rolling hills across the ridge line. I then reached my first big downhill. AWESOME. I flew down the mountain. Going 35-45 mph, I was slowly gaining on the traffic in front of me. I went 5 miles in about 6-7 min. I stopped after the long downhill and Gabe, riding sweep, caught up to me. We rode the last few miles into Eagle Rock School and our home for the evening.

Eagle Rock School was a cool place. This alternative high school, sponsored by Honda, is a place for kids who did not succeed in conventional school to go for free. It was a really neat place with a good mission and a unique approach. Leaving Eagle Rock School the next morning would kick off the hardest and best day of my young life. The school has a pretty steep, mile and a half driveway that peaks in the middle. Every morning, the entire student body, which ranges from 60 to 100+ students, runs/walks down the driveway and back. On our way out, we were met cheers and well-wishes from the exercizing students, as we headed off to tackle Trail Ridge.

It took us 10 miles to reach the gates of Rocky Mountain National Park. We stopped before entering the park at a small coffee shop. The coffee shop had lots of cool wildlife around. We were nearly swarmed with tiny Colorado Hummingbirds, which we learned weigh up to the same as a penny.

Entering the park, I stopped at the ranger station to learn a little bit about the park. I picked up a brochure/map and perused the literature on the parks attractions. the first few miles in the park were slightly flat, as the last few would be. Then it began. The hardest thing I have ever put my body through. Up and up.... and up... and up. Then I biked uphill some more. The park gate had been just above 8000 feet. It seemed like for every mile I went forward, I also went up a mile. The stark beauty of the landscape, the majesty of the great bull elk, and the ever thinner air combined to take my breath away. As I climbed higher it felt as if my lungs were not working, and in turn my entire body fought my mind to stop moving. Trail Ridge Road peaked about 20 miles from the park gate at 12,053 feet. It was the highest I've ever been on Earth and on life. I did it: the hardest thing I've ever done, and I've been cycling every day for the past month and a half.

The trip down, oh, the trip down. What took 8 hours to climb, took only 45 minutes to descend down from. If you haven't seen the video, you should watch it (that is Nate in front of me and Beau is close behind.) We flew down the mountain, stopping only 2wice to shed layers of clothes. We zipped around 15 mph switchbacks at 30-35 mph. We met or exceeded the speed limit for 20 miles. I hit my top speed of the day after we had left the park and continued to descend into Grand Lake, CO. I think it was about 49. I even missed my last turn by about 300 yards, as I was trying to go faster. After realizing I had missed the turn, I slammed on the brakes and turned out into the lane a bit to look back at Nate and Beau. At this moment I hear Nate scream. I had not signaled that I was slowing down. Nate nearly missed hitting me at a dead stop when he was going 45 mph. Close call. We rolled into Grand Lake Elementary School with cold tacos and hot showers awaiting our arrival. What a day!

I can now say that I have been in a snowball fight in the middle of June. I have eaten Elk sausage. I've seen a wild moose in person. I can be relatively comfortable in tight spandex shorts all day. I've been to Colorado, and now Utah. I have ridden an Alpine Slide. I will soon go on my first white water rafting adventure. I hope to exceed 60 mph on my bike, which have named Shadowfax for all you Lord of the Rings geeks. My current top speed is 51 mph.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Twine of our lives

Last summer I biked across the country with a non-profit organization called Bike and Build. This organization hosts several cross-country cycling trips to raise money for and awareness of affordable housing efforts in the USA. So anyway, one day we were biking. We were pretty deep into the trip, in Kansas to be exact. Our day's agenda was to start in Beloit, and finish in Phillipsburg. Word on the street had it that we were supposed to pass by the World's Largest Ball of Twine. I was so pumped to hear that. That was like music to my ears to hear that we had an opportunity to see such history. Such americana. I can not imagine biking across this country without seeing the world''s largest something. To my pleasure, this time, our treasure was twine. Sure enough, after 20 miles or so, we roll into a very small town, Cawker City, KS. On the shoulder of the road, there was a painted strand of twine curling and winding all the way to the centermost place in this community. The twine. There it was. A 17,000 Lb ball of Sisal Twine, sheltered in an altar-like gazebo of some sort. 
During the 20 something miles of the morning, pre-twine, was filled with an amazing amount of exuberance just knowing that we were going to lay eyes on something glorious that day. That feeling was so much better than the one we experienced right before we saw the Rockies for the first time! That had a lot to do with the vigorous climbs, extreme heat, viscous wind, constant desert, and overall suckiness of eastern Colorado, however. 
When I saw the twine, I must say I was very close to disappointed. Not let down, but just a little curious why it was that I wanted to see the twine in the first place. Because, I thought it was going to be this great big ball of twine, but when we finally got there, it was just a big ball of twine. You know? But it was extremely awesome nonetheless. 
The rest of the ride was filled with dumb puns regarding twine, songs that had lyrics that either rhymed with Cawker or City or Twine or Big Ball of Twine etc..  followed by the best hamburger joint in the biznass, The Chubby Pickle. Straight boomin'. Good prices, delicious burger. All in all, it was a great day of cycling. It was good enough to remember vividly. It was good enough to write this about it, for me.   
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