Today is the 26th World AIDS Day.  This morning I participated in a WAD ride sponsored by Positive Pedalers, an international cycling club that focuses on erasing stigma of HIV/AIDS by being a positive presence in that community (and to those outside that community).  The ride was followed by a ceremony at the National AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park.


2014 World AIDS Day Ride in San Francisco

2014 World AIDS Day Ride in San Francisco


I was a young adult in the 1980s.  I worked in theatre during these years, a community especially hard hit in the early years of HIV and AIDS.  I distinctly remember my first friend who shared his positive HIV/AIDS status with me.  His name was Wayne, he bore a striking resemblance to David Bowie, and I had a terrible crush on him.  I haven’t thought about Wayne in many years.  As I feared, a quick google search yields no results.

Wayne and I worked together on a children’s theatre tour in the Washington, DC metro area.  For 10 months, the two of us, along with three other actors, toured schools 5 days a week.  We travelled together, performing at two schools each day, in a van packed tightly with costumes, sets, and sound equipment.  The five of us became very close.

One day, sitting in a Burger King on lunch break, Wayne told us he had tested positive.  I remember thinking it was a death sentence.  I cried openly.  So did everyone else.  I held him close.  I wondered, since we weren’t very educated about transmission in those early days, if I could contract HIV because I had shared sodas and cigarettes with him.  But mostly, I was devastated.  I mourned, because he was symptomatic and I knew he would die.

Over the years, I’ve had countless friends and colleagues who were HIV positive.  I’ve known countless others who have died of AIDS.  It’s been a part of my entire adult life.

More than a decade later, in 1998, I moved to the San Francisco area.  Wanting to find a volunteer opportunity, I registered to participate in the California AIDS Ride, a 7-day, 600-mile bicycle ride that raised funds and awareness for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.  When I registered, I did so because I wanted to improve my health and I wanted to feel a part of my community.  But, like many participants, as I trained and then completed the ride, it became more about HIV/AIDS than about me and my goals.  And what I learned through that experience was that there were many folks who lived with HIV and AIDS and also rode their bicycles in that event.  AIDS was no longer a death sentence.

There’s a prevailing feeling, especially among our youth, that AIDS is not dangerous.  It won’t kill you.  It’s a thing of the past.  There are drugs to treat it.  And that’s the demographic that’s seeing an increased diagnosis of HIV and AIDS.

So, today, I ask you to think about AIDS.  Remember that we’re still fighting this disease.  And, if you have the opportunity to influence a young person about the risks and prevention, please don’t hesitate to take action.

Happy New Year! I know, it’s January 6th but I reserve the right to wish you a happy new year at least throughout the first month of the year. This week’s links focus on some of the bike-related blogs I really love. — Eco Velo is a fabulous site focused on the bike commuter lifestyle and is, unfortunately, being retired by the creators. But, they’re keeping the awesome content on line for all of 2012 so check it out while you still have the chance. — Velo Girls alum, Janet LaFleur, has created a fabulous blog focused on her bike lifestyle experiences. The writing is solid, the photos are beautiful, and the topics are sometimes gritty and sometimes whimsical. If you love cycling, women, bikes, the bay area, you should share Janet’s experience. — Norcal Cycling News has taken on many different iterations over the years, but it’s still got solid readership focused on norcal bike racing. If you love bike racing, this is a must-read, with a good mix of gossip, editorials, interviews, and news. — Rand Miller is the best local underdog you love to love. His blog focuses on his pro racing experience with more than a touch of sarcasm and heckling. Rand makes you believe that if he can do it, anyone can. — Beth Newell is one of the funniest writers in the bike world. I’ve watched her struggle and rise to stardom over the years and am thrilled she’s racing in the big leagues now. Let’s hope she holds true to her promise and blogs more regularly again in 2012, because her writing is spurtle-my-coffee-on-my-keyboard funny.

This week’s links focus on calls to action. Get involved in the women’s cycling movement, support a woman-owned business in the cycling industry, or support Team Velo Girls on our AIDS/Lifecycle campaign. Pick one and you might change a life — maybe even your own.

Women in Cycling: Why we Matter — A thoughtful + insightful piece by Sarai of girlbikelove. If you haven’t read it, you should. If you haven’t shared it, you should. If you don’t believe it, just look around you at all the women change-makers in your life. YOU can be a change-maker, too. You ARE a change-maker!

My Alibi Clothing Kickstarter Campaign — For those of you who’ve dared to follow your dream, you know the investment it takes in emotional and sweat equity. It also takes an investment in more tangible equity, and this is where you can help! For as little as $8 you can invest in Abbie Durkee’s dream.

Team Velo Girls AIDS/Lifecycle Campaign — Join Team Velo Girls as part of our AIDS/Lifecycle team as a rider or roadie, or make a donation on behalf of the team to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

Here are some more holiday gift ideas — this time focusing on your favorite mountain biker.  What could be better than a gift membership to your local trail advocacy group?  They work hard to maintain trails, educate trail users, and fight to keep trails accessible to bikes.

Bicycle Trails Council of Marin

Bicycle Trails Council of the Easy Bay

Monterey Off-Road Cycling Association

Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz

Responsible Organized Mountain Pedalers

Sonoma County Trails Council

Looking for a great holiday gift this season for the cyclist you love?  How about a gift membership to one of the organizations working to make cycling better for all of us:

East Bay Bicycle Coalition

Marin County Bicycle Coalition

Napa County Bicycle Coalition

San Francisco Bicycle Coalition

Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition

Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition

AIDS/Lifecycle — Join Team Velo Girls as a rider or roadie on ALC11 in June or make a donation on behalf of the team!

Paralympian Joins Pro Cycling Team After Recovery — the inspirational story of Dutch cyclist Monique van der Vorst.

San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Winterfest — this Sunday — the biggest bike party of the year!  go, eat, drink, mix, mingle, bid on the auctions, and help improve biking in our fair city.

6th Annual Supermarket Street Sweep — this Saturday — an alleycat style race (fun) supporting the San Francisco Food Bank.

What Drivers Can Do To Be More Cyclist Aware — from Carbuzz.UK (really, a car blog!)
Yeah, probably not.  What’s so great about being indoors?

I’ve been thinking about the great OUTDOORS a lot lately, probably because I’ve been camping in my happy place for the past two weeks – high in the mountains of Markleeville, CA.

I grew up in rural upstate New York.  The great outdoors was my everything – my playground, my athletic field, my library, my game room, my kitchen.  Recreation meant being outdoors, in the rain of spring, in the heat and humidity of summer, in the crisp, cool days of fall, and in the freezing snow of winter.  As a child, I built forts in the woods, went fishing, played games, and rode my bike.  The last place I wanted to be was indoors.  Outdoors was freedom.  Indoors was chores and family responsibilities.  Outdoors was my happy place.  Even when I was doing indoorsy things like reading books or playing board games, I preferred to do it outdoors.
My summers were spent on a tiny little lake in the mountains of Pennsylvania.  There was no television.  There was no radio.  Instead, we fished and caught bull frogs and went for hikes and picked berries.  We cooked outdoors.  We sat around campfires telling riddles.  We paddled the canoe and swam and spent entire days in our wet bathing suits.
There’s something special about the great outdoors that, if you’ve spent time there, you just intuitively know.  The air feels different.  You can identify the sounds of birds or bugs or squirrels or chipmunks.  You can tell the difference between the sound of the wind in the trees and the sound of a rushing creek or river.  You know what time it is by the changing light.
And somewhere, somehow, in this phase we call adulthood, many of us lose the great outdoors.
And, sadly enough, many of today’s youth never experience it at all.  Yeah, maybe there’s an annual family trip to the mountains or a Girl Scout hike in the woods, but many of today’s urban youth don’t have the opportunity to really get to know the great outdoors – to smell the trees and the grass and the dirt, to feel the crunch of leaves or pine needles under our feet, to hear the birds and the bugs and the animals.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to volunteer with a great organization here in Northern CA – Trips for Kids.  I’ve been trying to remember when I first learned about TFK and their great programs – probably about 10 years ago now.  TFK provides inner-city youth with the opportunity to get out into the great outdoors, even for just one day.  They take kids, many of whom have never seen the ocean or the mountains, out on day-long mountain biking trips.  Trips for Kids provides the bikes, helmets, and all equipment needed (thanks to great industry, corporate, and individual sponsorship) and even teaches the kids the basic skills needed to successfully complete a short ride.
I remember my first ride with Trips for Kids, back in 2003.  Velo Girls was putting on a special Girls Day in the Dirt for them.  We met the TFK volunteers and the girls at China Camp, played some bike games (to teach them skills) and then went on a short ride.  Although these girls lived within spitting distance of the ocean, most had never seen it.  Most also didn’t have a bicycle of their own (something my generation took for granted).  And most had never ventured more than a few miles from where they lived.
The response was overwhelming.  These girls experienced every emotion you can imagine:  joy at being somewhere so beautiful, fear of trying something new, and gratitude that there was an organization like TFK and it’s volunteers who wanted to provide them with a very special opportunity.
So, as we watch childhood (and adult) obesity statistics skyrocket, I have to wonder how we could change that if we simply re-introduced the youth of today to the great outdoors.  What would happen if we reduced our time with the television, computer, and WII, and increased our time playing hopscotch, kickball, jump rope, and riding bikes?  What would happen if we put down the computer and picked up a compass?  What would happen if we took our children on a hike instead of to the movies?
Is it naïve to think that we could change the world one child at a time?  I don’t think so, and neither does Marilyn Price, founder of Trips for Kids.  So, next time you have the opportunity to spend time with a child (your own or someone else’s), think about the impact of the decision you’re about to make.  Will you share the great outdoors with them?  Will you encourage them to explore their world?  To be active and healthy?  Is there really any other logical choice?


The long way home

who doesn’t like a little challenge? after a month off the bike in October, doing nothing but physical therapy and coaching clinics, I wanted to get back on the bike, add in some yoga (more on that in another post), and just find some consistency in my riding, my energy levels, and my mood. during October I’d also been focused on weight-loss and my caloric deficits, combined with the end of Daylight Saving Time, seemed to be affecting my sleep patterns. I needed balance. I needed energy. I needed a goal — something that was consistent and achievable and that would motivate me.

so I gave myself the goal of riding at least one hour every day in November and December. I set no parameters besides time — I could go long or short, flat or hilly, road or dirt. I would listen to my body, vary my intensity, and keep it fun.

I started a day early, with a challenging mountain bike ride with Team Velo Girls at Waterdog on October 31st. it hurt — mentally and physically. in the 12 years I’ve been riding, I’ve had some extended periods of time off the bike, but usually due to illness, not injury. when you return to the bike from illness, you expect to be winded and to feel weak. I didn’t expect this after my hiatus in October. this first ride was a wake-up call for me.

so, November 1st came and I rolled. pretty easy at first. road + dirt. 7 days in a row for a modest total of 10 hours. and on the 8th day it rained. and I was tired. really tired. I ramped up a little quickly, I think, with 10 hours on the bike that week as well as 2.5 hours of yoga and swing dance. so I gave myself permission to take a nap instead of a bike ride. it was the correct decision.

week #2 went well, but again, I had one day that I was just completely exhausted. so I gave myself permission to nap instead of ride. I decided that I hadn’t failed at my goal by missing 2 days. I was still out there riding and being consistent, and that was the intention of my goal. in those 6 days I was able to ride 10 hours and also danced for 1.5 hours. I was learning how to manage my time to add in the riding and yoga. I was making time for myself!

week #3 and my body was happy (as was my mind). I was sleeping well, the weight-loss continued, and with the exception of one significant bonk, I was having great rides! I started doing some more challenging rides. most of my rides have been solo. I was having fun riding by myself, something I haven’t done in years. I was listening to my body and going easy on days I needed recovery and hard on days I wanted challenge. and I was mountain biking a lot. all is good.

week #4 and I planned to ramp up my yoga. I finally found the time of day and styles of yoga that really worked in my life. my goal was to practice 5 days this week. life is good and I’m finding balance. I’m really happy. I’m smiling so much that I’m starting to annoy myself. unfortunately, a silly sleeping injury (seriously) kept me off the bike and out of the yoga studio for 3 days. on Thanksgiving day I got back out on the road for 3 hours in freezing cold. and I’m proud that I was able to maintain my caloric deficit in the face of Thanksgiving dinner. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday included more rides (road and mountain) and my first ever double-header yoga day.

November was a good month. I got on the bike 24 of 30 days. I rode almost 40 hours for a total of more than 400 miles, including 5 mountain bike rides. I practiced yoga 6 times and took 4 dance classes. I feel consistent. and happy. and very mobile. my head is in a really good space. I promised myself at least an hour a day — just for me — and I was able to achieve that.

one of the ways I’ve been able to fit this all into my schedule is to combine my bike + yoga time. no, I’m not stretching on the bike, but rather I’m riding my bicycle to yoga class. I have this silly 5-mile rule — I don’t drive my car if I’m going somewhere that’s within 5 miles, so this fits right in with yoga class. I can ride the short way (only about 15 minutes), take class, and then take the long way home, the scenic route. the road less travelled. I’ve enjoyed riding through the hills and canyons of Hillsborough and Burlingame. I’m rediscovering roads I haven’t ridden in years. I’m swearing under my breath at the 15-20% grades that pop up out of nowhere and then applauding myself at the top of those hills. I’m admiring the mansions. I’m noticing the subtle changes of fall: golden and red leaves transitioning from tree to ground. and I’m enjoying every single moment on the bike.

how often do you go out of your way to discover a new road, climb a new hill, or check out a new vista? too often in the past, I found myself “training” and forgetting what it is that I really love about the bike — the same thing that I loved as a child — the freedom! I was so concerned with the destination that I missed the journey. so I’ll encourage you to give yourself the gift today of freedom. and fun. and cycling. go ahead, take the long way home!

I’ve long been a bike commuter. it began with my desire to get more training time in way back in the winter/spring of 2000. I was training for my first California AIDS Ride and felt that my weekend long rides + weekday spin classes just weren’t doing it for me. at the time I was working in San Francisco and living in San Mateo. each way, the commute was about 22 miles. interestingly enough, I found that the total time commitment to commute by bicycle was similar to the total time commitment of commuting by car or taking the train. yeah, car traffic was pretty crazy + unpredictable back in the day.

so I started commuting to work. my decision to do so was pretty impromptu. I decided one Saturday morning to try riding to San Francisco from home, checking out a possible commute route and timing myself. so I bought a set of bike lights, declared myself a bike commuter, and, two days later, I jumped in.

my first commute was a great adventure. I had no plan. I didn’t really have the right equipment. I had too much stuff to carry and didn’t have a good way to carry it. I had nowhere to park my fancy new road bike. and once I arrived at work, I didn’t have anywhere to shower or prepare for the day. I remember walking to the nearest gym (where my employer had a deal for us), proudly stating that I was preparing for the CA AIDS Ride, and expecting them to let me shower for free. the desk clerk felt sorry for me (or maybe I just stunk) and let me shower — that one time. after that, she informed me, it would be $10/day. when I got back to my desk, I emailed our Team Schwab cycling club list to find out where there was a shower on-site. unfortunately, there was nothing in any of the buildings near me except one secret, private shower that had been built for the CEO of the company. he had moved offices and no one was using it, but my contact suggested I could sneak in + out and no one would notice. and that’s what I did for months.

my commute home was equally as adventuresome. less than a mile from my office, I nearly killed myself trying to avoid a muni bus. I ended up with my front wheel in a muni track and took an embarrassing tumble onto Market Street. I got a flat tire 3 miles from home and didn’t know how to change it so I rode home on it. but I survived and was ready to try again.

I quickly learned that I couldn’t carry so much stuff on the bike. I started emailing files home instead of carrying paper (yes, this was pre-access-at-home days). I left three pairs of shoes at the office (brown, black, and blue pumps — I was set for every occasion) as well as a warm winter coat. I stored a complete set of toiletries (including towel, wash cloth, blow dryer, and curling iron) at my office. go ahead, laugh about the curling iron, I dare you! and I tried a bunch of different bag systems, finally settling on an oversized lumbar pack from REI to carry just my clothes, wallet, and palm pilot.

as you can see, it took some planning. and preparation. and a few attempts before I had a seamless commute.

I continued to commute for the next year (while I was still working in SF). somedays I would ride to work and take the train home. somedays I would ride both ways. somedays I would add on some extra mileage just for fun!

and while my original goal was to increase my training time, what I learned was that there was a HUGE emotional/mental benefit to bike commuting as well. when I arrived at the office, I had already achieved something great. I was able to check something off my list before work even began. and I found I had more energy and less stress than if I had been sitting in my car, stuck in traffic, for 60-90 minutes.

since that time, I’ve continued to commute and errand by bike. I actually went car-free for two years — a big accomplishment living on the peninsula (during a time when CalTrain discontinued weekend service). I transitioned to a cyclocross bike with mounted racks and panniers and eventually to a touring bike. I still have a five-mile rule: if a trip is within five miles, I dont take my car. there were some definite lifestyle changes involved in these decisions, but overall, I’m thrilled with the fact that I choose to live as car-lite as possible.

commuting and erranding by bike is a great way to save money, contribute to our environment, reduce stress, and stay in shape. but it can seem like a daunting lifestyle change. Velo Girls would like to help you learn how to make this change. one of our members, Torea Rodriguez, took my May Bike Month Challenge, and has forever changed her life. on Wednesday, December 1st, she’s going to share her experience with you.

join us at Mike’s Bikes in Palo Alto for our 2011 Velo Girls membership kick-off, where Torea will be our featured presenter, discussing the ins + outs of transportational cycling — 6:00pm – 7:30pm.

Details of this and other Velo Girls rides + events at