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Willie Weir : January 28th, 2011

Bottle Exchange

One of the few racing cyclists I met while I was in Cuba (1998) was a young man named Alexie. He came over to chat with me in a small town in the province of Pinar del Rio (west of Havana).

I thought he was interested in my bike. It was a Rodriguez, which is a common surname in Cuba. But I later found out he wasn’t interested in the frame or the brakes or the tires. He was interested in one of my water bottles.

He explained that he dreamed of painting his bike white and blue. But the water bottle he owned was yellow. Water bottles in Cuba, like everything else, were in short supply. He had searched for months and couldn’t find one to match his dream bike.

It just so happened that I had the coveted white-and-blue water bottle.

He held up his old, yellow water bottle with the black cap next to mine … assuring me that they both carried the same amount of liquid. Then he asked if I would be willing to trade.

I didn’t hesitate. I just handed it over.

Alexie beamed. And I thought, “What an easy goodwill gesture.”

Soon after, I learned that there is a difference between drinking from a white-and-blue bottle versus a yellow one … especially if the yellow one is filled with rum.

I took a huge swallow and almost passed out from the unexpected rush of alcohol.

Alexie and his friends couldn’t stop laughing. I laughed, too, once I’d caught my breath and wiped the tears from my eyes.

That journey was a dozen years ago — and to this day, if I hold that yellow water bottle up to my nose, I get the faintest whiff of Cuban rum.

I imagine a bike racer in the hot Cuban sun, pedaling in cadence with a pace line. He reaches down and grabs an old white-and-blue water bottle.

And I smile.

Originally posted on the Adventure Cycling Association’s blog.
Kat Marriner : January 25th, 2011

Portugal: The Where We Were

When we say we cycled Portugal, we mean it! Portugal is about the size of Indiana and friends joked we could see it in a week. Instead of hitting just the highlights, we took our time wandering the back roads as much as possible and exploring the major cities too. It was luxurious to focus on such a small region getting to know it intimately. The landscape changed daily and the culture and cuisine is distinctively different north to south. Wine is delicious everywhere! In three months, we pedaled 2,934.7 kilometers (1,823.5 miles) by crossing the country SIX times. Still, there are places we didn’t see…

Kat and Willie's bike route through Portugal

Kat Marriner : January 21st, 2011

If the masses only knew

Recently I was invited to a “Women on Bikes” meet-up … a salon of sorts where we batted around the question of “what do women want”. We were there to share our bikerly stories and share ideas—maybe someone in that room can run with it and make things happen in our city. Or perhaps as a community of women on bikes we can help a sea change. I came home and posted a similar query on Facebook, asking what will it take to get more women to ride bikes?

A great question with dozens of answers in person and on FB, but then Don Draper (Mad Men marketing genius for you non-TV watchers) crooned in my ear and I turned that question around. I know lots of reasons to not ride a bike—we all do—but what is the deep, underlying hook that keeps those of us who do ride bikes riding them in the face of all the challenges? What do we know that the rest of the world doesn’t know?

So with the tinkling of ice in my glass and Don Draper’s smooth baritone lulling me to explore my own motivations for tackling traffic, bad weather, aggressive drivers, time crunch, culture, and snobbish cyclists who want to impress themselves by racing me up the hill (yep, the vibe on the street, and in the bike shop, is a deterrent), I came up with my three hooks that keep me pedaling.

One. I wish it were the greening of the planet, but it’s not my great motivator.  When I owned a car, I bike-commuted to school and work because parking and gas was expensive. I did it to save money when I really wasn’t making very much. Years later with a higher income, I don’t own a car, but every time I do the math and realize how much money I would need to spend on car payments, insurance, gas, maintenance, I decide I don’t need a car. And it’s not just the money that I can spend on other things like going to Portugal for three months; it’s actually the time I would need to spend working to make that extra money too.

Two. Riding a bike or walking most places is an automatic workout. I love that every time I go somewhere, it’s not time spent in a gym pedaling, or worse, trying to lose weight. It’s a twofer – a two for one bonus of getting somewhere I was already going and getting a workout at the same time.

Three. I think it’s a little bit cool. Riding a bike is my small rebellion from normalcy. It’s freedom. It’s empowering. I actually think I’m lucky that I’m a woman who rides a bike. I like the looks of admiration and the thumbs-up encouragement I get. I get that on trips, but I also get that just riding around town. When it happens it’s really fun, and no one ever thought I was cool just because I was driving a car.

These are my three reasons. What are yours? What is the marketing genius that will sell riding a bike, if the masses only knew?