Sunday, February 19, 2012

Winter-Bike-to-Work-Week...Madison Style

As the mercury drops and snowflakes fall, many cyclists put their steed to bed for the winter.  Not so for a group of riders part of Madison Bike Winter (at this point over 730 strong).  Started by Aaron Crandall a few years back, this group has been showing the Midwest how it's done in the winter months.  Many cyclists are familiar with summer bike to work weeks held around the country but aren't familiar with the winter version.  For Madison Bike Winter, this is the week to introduce and encourage cyclists to ride in the winter and celebrate with those that already get out there and play in the snow (even though we haven't seen much this year yet).

This all started out as a winter bike to work day which was set aside last year since most of us were down on the capitol protesting.  Instead of making a repeat of the first year, Aaron took it upon himself to create an entire week of activities.  Several members got together for weekly "meet-ups" to plan one or more daily activities for the week of February 12-18th...and enjoy some good beer.  As usual, there was a plethora of great ideas and we actually had to narrow it down.

How did I get involved in all of this?  Simply put, misery loves company.  I have to admit that I'm not that fond of winter.  Growing up in Minneapolis, I found ways to "get through" without going crazy.  Skiing, speed skating, dog sledding, winter camping and winter biking all made the cold months a tad more bearable.  The one winter I lived in Hawaii was actually heaven.  There just weren't enough bike routes to make me stay on the big island (I do have my limits).  So knowing that I'd be in a Northern climate for awhile, I decided to make the most of it and join Madison Bike Winter.  It hasn't let me down!  Although there are days that riding feels like pulling teeth, I look at it as an adventure.  There is a quote from Sigurd Olson that sums it up best...
 "You cannot turn your back on any challenge, physical or mental.  If you do, you diminish yourself, and the next time it will be easier to say 'no, I can not do it'.  If you take the hazards as they come and survive, you will be stronger and better and the trip will be a milestone in your life, one you will always know as a turning point."

Although I was unable to attend every activity, I captured a few of the highlights. 

Jason talking about physiology (Aaron and I are in the front row)
Sunday got it all rolling with a "how to" workshop that Jason Boynton from and I put on at Machinery Row bike shop.  We discussed how to dress to stay comfortable in cold temperatures (layers are key) how to be seen by cars and the physiology of staying comfortable in winter.  A studded tire demo was also given by the staff at Machinery Row.  Here's a short news video shot at the shop

Monday was absolutely packed with a "bike to meditate" at Monona Terrace, an after work party at B-Cycle and a MEAThead no-drop ride around lake Monona.

Stray Cat staff handing out free coffee to commuters
My yoga for athletes class
Tuesday was titled Stray Cat Tuesday since Stray Cat Bicycles handed out free coffee for commuters.  I also taught a free yoga for athletes class at Harbor Athletic Club to help folks stay flexible with the cold weather riding.  Because of slight "mix-up" on the planning end (we thought Valentine's Day was Wednesday), our Valentine's events were one day late.  Just another excuse to spread the love for bikes another day!

Single speed ride to Great Dane
Wednesday was "Love Your Bike Day"!  Machinery Row treated us to 50% off tune-ups and a "singles" ride (single speeds were encouraged).  Those not-so-brave souls got to do some indoor training at Speed Cycles.

Ali's yoga for cyclists class
Thursday Ali Dwyer brought us back into alignment with a yoga class at Mound Street Yoga

Friday we celebrated an end to a wonderful week by gathering at Brocach Irish Pub on the capitol square.  I was so happy to see such a huge turnout and even happier to meet some folks I hadn't met yet.
"Final Fiesta" party at Brocach

To cap off the week, Saturday we rode down to the winter farmer's market for local goodies and followed it up with an urban spin.

Thanks to all of you who participated in these events and an enormous THANKS to those who put the events on and donated raffle prizes (special "thanks" to Machinery Row who not only handed out coffee two days but gave us discounts all week).  Let's hope that we inspired other communities to celebrate winter vs. dread it.  For more information on Madison Bike Winter, please visit it's facebook page

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My New Experiment

When I started this blog in July, I never expected people to actually read it.  I saw it as a journal of sorts.  Not that I was against anyone reading it, I just never thought people would want to read about my views on biking.  I must admit that I'm not only surprised but very happy to see folks from around the United States and the rest of the world tapping into my "journal".

My excitement comes from the adventurer in me.  You see, before moving to Madison, my husband and I spent many years traveling and living around the world.  For the past 8 years this has diminished due to work commitments, having a "furry child" and house projects.

By seeing the places my readers are from (Russia, Germany, UAE, Australia etc.), my interest for travel has been sparked once again--not that it ever truly died.  This got me thinking--always a dangerous thing.  What would happen if I made connections with some or many of my readers and spent time traveling around the world, exploring where they live by bike, and then write about it in my blog?

I've always had a "bucket list" of places I've wanted to go but this could open up a whole new world.  Better yet, the travel would be through the eyes of a cyclist.  So here's my request from you reader...if you are at all interested in connecting with me for this possible adventure, please e-mail me (, facebook me at Kierstin Kloeckner or leave a message on my blog and we'll start this process.  On my end, my husband and I are often times open to having cyclists visit us here in Madison (one of the best bike cities in the U.S.).  If this isn't up your alley but you know someone that might be interested, please feel free to pass this on.  Let the two wheeled adventure begin!

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Week of Kindness

Most cyclists have been caught in a situation before where they kick themselves for their stupidity.  Last week, while the weather seemed a bit more like spring than February, my giddiness took over and I headed out for a ride...without a spare tube.  I got a mile or so into the ride when I realized I had left the pump and tube at home.  I took the "lazy" way out and decided to keep going.  I hadn't had a flat in ages but as most of you know, when you don't bring an umbrella, it rains.

As I neared the furthest spot from my house, the unmistakable wobble came from my front wheel.  Sure enough, the tire was going flat and there I was, 15 miles from home (not that far but too far to walk) with no choice but to hitch a ride.  I walked to the nearest gas station and took a chance.  I'm not sure why luck was with me but the first person I asked actually lived two blocks from me, had a pickup truck and was on his way home.

This was one of the many acts of kindness from strangers that washed over me last week.  A couple days later, while in Chicago, I found myself dumbfounded by folks doing really wonderful things.  All were small gestures on their own, but compiled together made me say to my husband, "If everyone took just a moment out of their day to help someone in need or compliment someone, the world would be a much better place."  This way of thinking is not new or profound--in fact it's ridiculously simple.  I just feel that we are all so caught up in our daily routines that it's not something we give much thought to.

As a cyclist, kindness not only makes the day a little brighter, it can actually save a life.  A small thing like giving at least three feet of passing space while driving, or if biking, saying "on your left" while coming up on a pedestrian can make a huge impact.  Being raised in Minneapolis, "Minnesota Nice" was a joke.  In fact Jeff Frane, writer for Bike Jerks, actually makes caps that say "Minnesota Nice" on them.  As I get a bit older, I realize how important that way of thinking is.  Niceties are not a joke.  We need to implement them into our day once again if we want to all live together in a peaceful way.  I urge you to take a moment and practice this--because it does take practice.  I know that because of the kindness others have shown me, I will try my best to pass this good energy on.