Bicycles: it’s in my genes

Like most kids growing up in 90’s America, I had a bicycle. It was pink and white, sparkly with some sort of design – flowers, I think – and it probably had handle bar streamers, but I feel like that might be more wishful thinking than actual reality. I rode it as fast as the training wheels would permit, and when those fell off, I wheeled around our cul-de-sac with my brothers, and later down giant hills in our new neighborhood after moving when I was 6.
I loved it. We spent hours in the saddle, circling the neighborhood for what seemed like hours.
I should have known that cycling was in my future. I remember going to a shoe store that mostly offered athletic shoes of all kinds. I was probably 7 or 8. My brother was getting basketball shoes, and I asked my mom if they had bicycle shoes. I didn’t have any idea what bicycle shoes even looked like, much less that they could attach to the bike itself. I just thought they might have some Keds or something that would better fit the white rubber pedals on my pink bike.
Some of the earliest memories I have of my mom’s dad are of seeing him off on Freewheel rides. I remember standing in the dark of the early morning, watching him load some bags into a big charter bus (now that I think about it, I have no idea where he put his bike) and head to their starting point.
When he returned a week later, my grandma would always put together a feast and we would party at their house and listen to his stories of the road.
I also remember seeing his bicycles in their garage and wondering when I would be big enough to ride them. Probably a while, considering that my head came up to the top of his saddle.
My grandparents didn’t go by traditional names like “Grandma and Grandad.” My oldest brother had trouble saying those, and it turned into Grammie and Gringa.
Cyclists 20 and 30 years ago didn’t keep records of rides like they do now. It may have something to do with the advent of technology. Gringa didn’t keep track of how many rides he went on over the years, and all we have to go by is his Freewheel and BRAT in Tennessee t-shirts.

My grandad, Nolan Harris, in his 1992 Bicycle Ride Across Tennessee shirt. My mom says this was his favorite shirt. I think we will get it framed.

My grandad, Nolan Harris, in his 1992 Bicycle Ride Across Tennessee shirt. My mom says this was his favorite shirt. I think we will get it framed.

Also, check out those cycling pants and shoes. A world of difference from today’s gear.
Gringa stopped riding about 15 years ago when his vision began to decay. In the end, he suffered from severe macular degeneration and lost about 90 percent of his vision.
He and Grammie moved through retirement homes in Tulsa during the 2000s and finally landed in one in South Tulsa. During my time at the O’Colly at OSU, I gradually began writing more about cycling, and when I read my grandparents my first story about Stillwater’s first cyclocross  race, I remember him listening intently and not saying a word for the rest of my visit. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but I wish I had asked him about his time on the bike.
As it got harder for me to visit him and Grammie – living in Stillwater, working and taking classes took much of my time – my mom would tell him about my riding: my attempt at the 2014 Land Run 100, 50+miles of training rides, etc., and she told me that he always smiled when she told him.
My mom still thinks it’s odd that the only thing I picked up from Gringa was his love of cycling, but she laughs about it. It really speaks to the way generations pass on interests.
Grammie died in May 2013, and Gringa died a year and a half later on Sept. 6, 2014.
I think I will always regret not sitting down with him to talk about our greatest common interest. I’m learning so much about cycling these days, but there are so many things I want to ask him. I wish we could have sat down and talked about his adventures, misadventures, and everything in between, and I wish he could have seen the grip that cycling is taking on the nation.
But. It’s too late for that. Try as I might, I can’t bring him back for that conversation.

All I can do now is keep riding, and ride my ride for him.

Don’t forget to ride for Ainsley this weekend!

Chris Peters and his daughter, Ainsley, grind some gravel. Ainsley has been battling leukemia for a year.

Chris Peters and his daughter, Ainsley, grind some gravel. Ainsley has been battling leukemia for a year.

The #IRide4Ainsley Gravel Grinder is this weekend, Sunday, Sept. 28! Be there or be square.
The race starts at 8 a.m., but show up at least half an hour early to get registered.
The race offers a 25-mile and a 50-mile route and both are available on Garmin and RidewithGPS. Both routes have a halfway point with water and bananas.

Here’s the 50 mile RidewithGPS and Garmin route.
Here’s the 25 mile RidewithGPS and Garmin route.
Bring drinks and a chair to hang out with everyone at the post ride grilling extravaganza – hotdogs and burgers, and you get to hang out with Ainsley, the reason for the ride!

There is no charge for to register for the ride, but donations are encouraged. One hundred percent of the proceeds go to help Ainsley fight leukemia.

If you can’t make it to the ride, you can still donate toward Ainsley’s battle here.

See you there, and keep riding!

Night riding: my thoughts

I went on an evening gravel ride over the weekend, and it quickly turned into a night ride. We left around 7:30 p.m. so the sun was already on its way to bed. We had a Red Dirt Diva who was ready to hit the gravel for the first time, and she bravely decided to make it after dark.

Photo from Liz Ann.

Some of the Red Dirt Diva Stillwater Gravel Grinders about to set out.  See those matching Macho Mans (men?). Photo from Liz Ann.

By the time we hit gravel, about a mile out of town, I had to turn on my lights. It’s hard for me to admit, but after riding gravel seriously for about a year, this was my first night gravel ride. Usually, I use my lights commuting around town, so I was excited and a little nervous for this new experience.
As night truly began to take hold, I had to rely completely on my lights to see where I was going. Riding outside of town, there were no street lights or yard lanterns – just the occasional house set back from the road.
They say that when you lose one sense, all your other senses are heightened, and it’s totally true. In the dark, I imagined I heard animals in the brush along the road and I fully expected wild dogs or pigs to leap into our path. The jostling and bouncing of the gravel moving under me was amplified as we pounded along. Smells like the dusty road and freshly worked fields were almost like an assault.
At one point, a skunk ran across the road, its telltale white stripe illuminated in our headlights. We all screamed and hit the brakes, giving it plenty of room, and dissolved into giggles like little girls. The last think any of us wanted was to get skunked, but laughter was the best way to diffuse the tension and prepare for the unavoidable. Fortunately, it was avoidable and we went unscathed, or rather, unskunked.
Some of the gravel along our route was pretty fresh, due to constant use of oil and gas company big rigs to access drilling sites, which have become a common sight around Payne County, so going was pretty sketchy at times.
My light cast shadows on the gravel, making the chunks seem larger than normal, and I subconsciously gripped my handlebars harder and gritted my teeth more than usual. I was still nursing a big swollen bruise on my hip from slipping in some fresh, chunky gravel last week, and as much as I love bruises and scratches as a conversation starter, I was not in any hurry to get a matching shiner on the other hip.
We reached a paved intersection and stopped to discuss our route. About a hundred yards off the road, a drilling site was bustling with activity. Flood lights made it seem like day as workers attended to a rig. Under the artificial light, I noticed a drilling tower that I would have sworn was new, but had probably been there for ages. Funny how different light will make things seem new.
Because it was getting late and the gravel was questionable, we opted to take pavement on the way back, and I was infinitely more comfortable.
Don’t get me wrong. I totally enjoyed the ride. There’s something exhilarating about the risk of riding at night. I think I’ll always prefer to ride during the day, or at least with a full moon, but I probably won’t turn down a night ride.
Gravel riding is all about getting new experiences, seeing new places and challenging yourself. It was a blast, but I discovered I have a lot more to learn about it.

Citizens: we need your help

I’m working with the City of Stillwater to update the cycling information on the city’s website: bike lanes map, bicycle law document, helpful information, etc. 
To make an accurate map of Stillwater that includes bicycle lanes, sharrows and shared use paths, as well as bicycle parking, public restrooms for cyclists, water fountains, etc., the city needs to be able to collect accurate and useful data. To help with this issue, the city developed a cycling app for the iPhone (and very soon for Android and Windows), Cycle Stillwater. The app allows you to record your ride around town, with options to report traffic issues like not being noticed by a stoplight, road problems like potholes and dangerous conditions, as well as note water fountains, public restrooms, bicycle parking, bicycle shops, and a secret passageway. 

 

Cycle Stillwater app

Cycle Stillwater app

The city has already been able to gather a significant amount of information about which routes cyclists use around town, but not much on where cyclists go (which route they use to get where and why), where they park, and other input. 
In order to make the most accurate cycling map possible, it is imperative that we use the app to provide as much input as possible. 

Cycle Stillwater in App Store.

Cycle Stillwater in App Store.

SO. Here’s how you can help. Download the app, Cycle Stillwater, on the app store. (Sorry, Android and Windows folks, they’re working on a version for you but it won’t be out for another month or so.) Learn your way around the app and use it to record your rides. It’s got handy features like speed, distance, time, calories burned and how many pounds of C02 you saved by cycling!

Help us out by using the app and tracking your rides, routes and stops so we can make an accurate map for cyclists to use in Stillwater. The cycling revolution is clearly taking off (obviously – they made an app for it), so there’s no reason for avid and casual cyclists to participate! 

Keep riding! 

A Big Loser is riding to town to promote healthy living

Joe Ostaszewski, a finalist in NBC’s Biggest Loser season 14, is heading to Stillwater on Thursday to promote healthy living and exercise to youth across the country. 

Joe Ostaszewski is riding from Maryland to California, making 42 stops in nine states along the way.

Joe Ostaszewski is riding from Maryland to California, making 42 stops in nine states along the way.

Ostaszewski, who lost 147 pounds during his time on the show, says the Biggest Loser saved his life and has dedicated to ride 2,937 miles across the country to raise awareness for childhood obesity.
“Obesity is a serious, chronic disease that is threatening the lives of millions of Americans, and I am living proof that there is a cure,”Joe said in a Riding It Forward press release. “The focus of my Wear Your Soul Project is equipping today’s youth to live healthy, active lifestyles, which aligns perfectly with the mission of 4-H to empower young people to tackle urgent issues and Marucci Sports’ commitment to engaging youth in physical activity.”
Joe teamed up with the National 4-H Council, the largest youth development organization with chapters across the country, to encourage American youth to be more active and make healthy lifestyle choices. Marucci Sports joined as a national sponsor for the event. His Riding It Forward Tour on July 30 in Chevy Chase, MD, and will finish at the Biggest Loser Ranch in California on Sept. 26. 
Joe and his twin brother, Henry, founded the Wear Your Soul foundation in 2012 to encourage and enable youth to explore healthy living through lifestyle choices and alternative outdoor sports. 
What happens when he gets to Stillwater?
Joe will arrive in Stillwater on Thursday, Aug. 28, and participate in a celebrity bicycle ride at 5:30 p.m. from City Hall, 723 S. Lewis, to the Oklahoma State University Student Union. Due to the time and route of the ride, the ride can accommodate no more than 30 riders.
At 7 p.m. in the Student Union Ballroom, Joe will speak about his experience as a college athlete, share his story of weight loss and his journey to where he is now. The event is free and open to the public. Afterward will be a meet and greet with Joe and the opportunity to sign his tour bus as a dedication to healthy living. 

Youth and students will have the opportunity to sign Joe's tour bus and dedicate with young people across the country to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Youth and students will have the opportunity to sign Joe’s tour bus and dedicate with young people across the country to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Joe's route across the US.

Joe’s route across the US.

Join us in welcoming Joe to town and showing him our Stillwater cycling community hospitality! See you there!

Keep riding! 

It’s that time again: students are back, so watch your back

They’re back.

From TutuMoi

From TutuMoi

Over the past week, students have descended in droves upon Stillwater, reminding us that we do, indeed, live in a college town. We tried to convince ourselves during the summer months that we lived in a quiet town where the drivers are (mostly) courteous and post-grad. 
Not any more. 
Stillwater, for all its effort, has become more cycling friendly in recent years, but with the constant ebb and flow of students, it’s hard to get the cycling friendly mindset to stick with some. 
We can try as hard as we can to produce more literature and spread awareness, which are good and necessary things, but the most surefire way to let drivers know we exist is to be on the road. 
Yup. 
Ride your bike. 
That being said, this first few weeks of the school year can be a little crazier on the road than usual – freshmen trying to figure out where they’re going and having no clue, students more interested in SnapChatting than watching the road, and free spirits celebrating life in Stillwater with too many spirits – so extra care is in order. 
Here are a few ways to increase your visibility and safety on the road, and how to not enrage drivers at the same time:
1. Invest in a white front and red rear blinking light for use during the day. They’re eye catching and are sure to attract attention. Remember, front white and red rear lights are a legal requirement during dark hours. 
2. Wear a helmet. I cannot stress this enough. Helmets save lives, and yours could be one. I seriously don’t care if it messes up your hair or doesn’t look cool. Helmets are cooler than brain damage. At this point in the cycling movement, not wearing a helmet on the road is ignorant and careless. 
3. Wear colorful clothing. There’s a reason construction workers wear high-visiblity vests in work zones – you always see them, right? I’m not saying you should go buy a high-vis jacket (but it will certainly get the job done), but at least wear something eye-catching on your bike. My winter jacket is a fantastic yellow-green, and it’s like a beacon of light going down the road. 
4. Be courteous. We all use the road, and we all have a right to it, even though some drivers may not know that. Instead of yelling and flipping the bird at uninformed drivers, wave and go on your way, or if you have a chance, politely inform them that cyclists are considered vehicles too, and have the same rights and responsibilities of the road that four-wheeled vehicles do. Invite them to look up cycling laws so they can be informed and tell their friends. 
Wave and smile when a driver is polite to you – use positive reinforcement. 
If you’re nice, they’ll probably remember you and think well of cyclists. If you’re rude, they’ll definitely remember you and think negatively of cyclists. We are all ambassadors for cycling in Stillwater, so let’s all be on our best behavior. 
5. Use bicycle lanes when they’re available. We have new bicycle lanes on University Avenue near campus, so let’s take advantage of them! There are also bike lanes on Hall of Fame Avenue along campus, Monroe Street, and Ninth and 12th streets.
6. Familiarize yourself with cycling laws. The best way to spread awareness of the law is to be informed yourself. Here’s my post about cycling laws in Oklahoma and Stillwater, and here’s something on cycling laws from the City of Stillwater and the Red Dirt Pedalers. 
7. In the event of an accident: Keep your cool – nothing will be gained by going berserk on someone. If you and the driver can come to an agreement as to who was at fault, trade insurance information and carry on. If not, call the police and file a report. If the driver leaves the scene, get the license plate and a description of the car. Seek medical attention if necessary, especially if you hit your head. Head injuries are no joke. Here’s some information on bicycle accidents/injuries and how to proceed. 
8. Be aware. Ride defensively. Sure, if someone hits you, it might be their fault, but wouldn’t you rather just avoid an accident all together? Be aware of your surroundings. Make eye contact with drivers to ensure they see you. If it looks like they don’t see you, play it safe. It’s better to be safe than sorry. 

Share this post with your friends and coworkers – everyone can benefit from being aware of cyclists on the road. 

Keep riding! 

#IRide4Ainsley: the Gravel Grinder for a cause

Ainsley Peters, 5 years old, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia on August 11, 2013.

Ainsley Peters, 5 years old, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia on August 11, 2013.

Ainsley Peters has been fighting leukemia for a year. She is 5 years old.
Shortly after her diagnosis, the Stillwater cycling community banded together to support Ainsley and her family through creating awareness, performing acts of service and raising money. The hashtag, #IRide4Ainsley, was born and has made its way around the world.
Now the Stillwater cycling community, led by the Stillwater Gravel Grinders, is hosting an #IRide4Ainsley Gravel Grinder. The ride has 25-and 50-mile options, with water stops for both routes.
The ride starts at 8 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 28, in front of District Bicycles, 120 W. 7th Ave. in Stillwater.
There is no entry fee for this ride, but donations are welcome to help support Ainlsey and her family through this trial; 100 percent of donations will go to the Peters. Ainsley is in remission, but they aren’t out of the woods by a long shot, and every bit helps.

Ainsley is the bravest and toughest 5-year-old I have met, and she isn’t about to give up. Her family began noticing a few odd things last summer: body aches, limping, bruising and an enlarged spleen.
After a whirlwind visit to the Stillwater hospital, Ainsley was life-flighted to Oklahoma City for more tests and treatment, and diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia on August. 11, 2013.
After her diagnosis, she was put into a 10-day medically induced coma, during which doctors pumped her with fluids and fought off infections that had taken advantage of her weak immune system.
Since then, she has undergone several rounds of chemo, oral and through a port, and is showing remarkable signs of recovery.

Learn more about the Peters’ journey on their blog, TeamPeters.
Visit Ainsley Jane’s Allies for updates on Ainsley.
Find out more about the #IRide4Ainsley Gravel Grinder.
Donate here to help Ainsley’s fight against leukemia.

We will see you on Sept. 28! Get your gravel tires on!

Keep riding!