Bike to Grad School Too!

Read the other entries in our Bike to School Day series here and here. Betsy Bagioni is the Coordinator of Women & Bicycles, and a doctoral student in Psychology at GWU. She balances school, work, and life… literally, since if she overpacks one pannier, her bike falls over. Biking to school sounds like a great idea… but what happens once you hit grad school and the size of your books equals the size your tuition? A typical day for the average grad student can include work AND school AND fun. Is biking even possible?

Pack your stuff

The first reality of grad school is that books can get very large and very numerous. Most of us also have to haul a laptop. Try using a tablet to put as many of your texts and articles into electronic form as possible, but at some point, you’ll have to pack some actual books. A good backpack or pannier is essential. I found I had to upgrade to a “bike specific” backpack (a regular one was just too floppy for comfortable biking) for days when my pannier was just out of space or when I was opting for bike share. Oh, and waterproofing is a must (found that one out the hard way!) if you don’t want your computer or your midterm paper for Psychodynamic Psychopathology to get soggy. What I like:

Dress the part

Most of us in grad school are simultaneously working or doing internships, so we still have to look professional (on a budget!). A second pannier (or a larger backpack) can hold spare clothes. Often just a change of shirt can be enough. I might wear a t-shirt to ride and change into my nicer top once at work. Careful folding or rolling reduces wrinkles. Given that I’m sometimes at as many as four school or work sites in one day, that’s a lot of off-and-on the bike. I’m finding that a little padding in the rear is much more helpful than when I had a 3.6 mile out-and-back commute. Let’s just say that when when I have my specialty bike undies and hit one of those famous DC potholes, my tush appreciates that extra cush. What I like:

Fuel your brain (and your muscles)

Grad students (and college students, entry level workers, and non-profits employees) are often on a tight budget. From the first days of kindergarten, we learned that school equals snacks. Depending on which bike I have for the day, I may or may not have a front basket to toss my lunchbox in. Sometimes, I leave before 7 AM and it can be 8 or 9 PM by the time I’m getting home again. Making sure I have sufficient calories is one assignment I need to get at least a solid B on, so I can save more money for tuition. What I like:

Bicycling every day?

WABA wants biking to be a comfortable, joyful activity. But the reality of grad school is that some days when I’m really tired, and my load is extra heavy, and it’s raining, and my tires are a little flat, and it’s uphill both ways, I just can’t find the joy. When those rare days occur, I mix it up with a multimodal commute (e.g. biking to Metro on my folding bike), or I might opt for an e-assist bike share to help me haul the heaviest texts up the steep hills of Northeast DC, or I might even take a day off. You’ll have your own limits. Some days you’ll be stressed out, and you just won’t want to ride. That’s fine! But on other days, the physical activity will be just the ticket to get your mind into the sort of happy space you need to crush your exams. What I like: The links included are not affiliate links–these are actual products used by the author. If you are using Amazon to shop, please designate WABA as your Amazon Smile charity!

Bike Acronyms: A Glossary

Acronyms can make for soupy conversation.

At a recent Roll Model meeting, one of the attendees leaned over and asked, ‘What is an LCI?” It made me realize that we can use a lot of acronyms around people who have no idea what we are talking about. So this week, let’s look at a few of the most common acronyms you might hear if you spend a lot of time around people who ride bikes. WABA – Washington Area Bicyclist Association. We help to build better bike lanes, better bike laws, and ultimately better bicyclists. Hello! MTB – Mountain bike. These bikes are design for riding rough off-road trails. They usually have flat or upright handlebars and very low gears for pedaling up steep trails. Many mountain bikes have some type of shock absorbers or suspension. Not to be confused with: MBT – The Metropolitan Branch Trail, which runs from Union Station to Silver Spring. Not to be confused with: MVT – The Mount Vernon Trail, which goes from Rosslyn to Mount Vernon. LAB – League of American Bicyclists. Created in 1880, the League represents bicyclists in the movement at the national level to create
 safer roads, stronger communities, and a bicycle-friendly America. LCI – League Cycling Instructor. These instructors attend a rigorous course to be able to teach people to feel secure riding a bicycle, to create a mindset that bikes should be treated as a vehicle, and to ensure bicyclists know how to ride safely and legally. MAMIL –  Middle Aged Man in Lycra.  Often used negatively to describe riders who emulate professional racers. CAT 6 – Commute Racing. In an organized bike race, competitors are divided up by skill levels—Categories 1 through 5. “Cat 6-ing” refers to racing (often one-sidedly) in a transportational setting like a commute. Some people enjoy it, others find it annoying. WABA thinks you should have fun on your bike but not be rude to other road or trail users. SAG – Support and Gear. A SAG vehicle follows a group of cyclists in a race, tour or recreational ride and may carry equipment, food, rider luggage, or mechanics. They may also carry riders who are unable to finish the ride. TDF – Tour de France. The premier multi stage bicycling race held every July in France. Not be confused with: TDF – Tour de Fat: The premier beer and bicycle carnival put on by New Belgium Brewing to raise money for local bicycling advocacy. W&OD – The Washington and Old Dominion Trail. A very popular rail trial that runs between Shirlington, VA and ends in Purcellville, VA. CCT – Capital Crescent Trail, A popular trail from Georgetown to Bethesda. C&O – The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath, an unpaved trail from Georgetown to Harper’s Ferry and then on to Cumberland, Maryland. Popular for bike camping. LBS–  Local bike shop RT – right turn (usually appears on a cue sheet) LT – left turn (usually appears on a cue sheet) UT – U- turn (usually appears on a cue sheet) n+1 –  A popular mathematical expression among starry-eyed bicyclists, n+1 = the number of bikes you should own, where n = the number of bikes you currently own. Not technically an acronym. Not technically true, either. But still popular. You are now equipped to carry on conversations with your bikiest friends!
      Women & Bicycles is proudly supported by The Potomac Pedalers Touring Club; hosts of the region’s most robust all-level group ride calendar and bike tailgates, Chipotle our delicious dinner party sponsors, and we’re supported by all our friends who donated through the Hains Point 100 ride.
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Riding in the Heat

Let’s face it. Summer is here. It feels like an oven outside and you can’t walk a block without looking like you’ve just gotten out of a personal training session. It’s almost impossible to ride your bike in these temps, right? Wrong! You can ride in the heat and arrive wherever you’re headed comfortably and okay. Don’t believe me? Here are some tips to help get you pedaling all the way through the summer:
    1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Drink a lot of water – before, during, and after your ride. And make sure to start sipping before you’re thirsty. An insulated water bottle (like the one pictured below) will help keep your water refreshingly cool. Also, look into local TapIt locations on your route so you know where you can fill up your water bottle for free!
    2. Protect yourself from the sun. Wear sunglasses – they’ll help you to see through the sun’s glare, shield your eyes from dirt and dust, and protect your eyes from harmful UV rays.  Be sure to apply plenty of sunblock before you get on your bike, reapplying every 2 hours or so.
    3. Shade is your new best friend. For a more bearable and comfortable ride, plan your ride along shady routes and scout out some possible resting places along the way to take a breather and relax if needed.
      Image from Flickr via user

      Image from Flickr via user Digikiki

    4. Plan ahead! Plan a route that generally avoids major hills and other strenuous riding obstacles. Find places that you could stop and refill along the way. Give yourself extra time and go at an easy, relaxed pace. Most importantly, be honest with yourself and know your limits! It’s okay if the heat is too much. Just make sure to have an alternative travel plan. You can even split up your trip and plan a multi-modal commute, like bringing your bike on the Metro or bus.
      Image taken from Metro

      Image taken from Metro

    5. What you wear counts. Make sure to wear clothes that are moisture-wicking and comfortable. Light-colored fabrics that reflect the sun are ideal. Try to stick to polyester-type fabrics and flowy clothes that are breathable – you’ll appreciate the extra breeze! It also helps to wear a cycling cap under your helmet to keep your hair looking great despite the humidity.
    6. Don’t be afraid to sweat. Sweating is virtually unavoidable. So while you can’t stop your body’s natural way of cooling you down, you can prepare for how you deal with it. If you’re riding to work, try to leave your work clothes at the office and bike there in more comfortable, lighter clothing. You could also invest in some panniers or a basket to carry a change of clothes with you on your ride.
      Image from The Active Times

      Image from The Active Times

      It’s a bonus if your destination has showers. But if not, pack a towel, washcloth, or baby wipes and some deodorant – and make sure to give yourself some extra time to wipe down and cool-off.
And most importantly…


Copy of PAL - Arlington ride with Pete 3   wandblogoThis blog post is part of a weekly Women & Bicycles series of tips and helpful information that will answer frequently asked questions, provide helpful advice to common problems, and make bicycling a more accessible, widely-chosen means of transportation, exercise, and fun! To learn more about WABA’s Women & Bicycles program, click here to learn more and get involved.

Bike With Your Children This Fall

e6MXyK7ObZyMVaWZ7KTNlYi1U8M0BlyNV1r6XhihuwIThis is part of our Women & Bicycles blog series,  part of WABA’s initiative to build a stronger women’s bike community and get more women on bikes.  These posts aren’t exclusive to women, but they’re produced with and through the Women & Bicycles’ programming. Click here to learn more and get involved. Last week we partnered with Kidical Mass DC organizer Megan Odett to host a Family Bike Workshop at the Georgetown Neighborhood Library. Families from around the region joined us to glean Megan’s expertise on family biking equipment, safety, weather, and the most important: snacking & napping strategies! And conveniently, there were blocks and books galore in the library’s nearby children’s room. Tuffo Muddy BuddyOf all the tips and skills shared, a salient concern stuck out: how do I keep my children warm and dry? You can protect your children from wind and moisture using a DIY canopy, or covered trailer, or fancy cargo bike with built-in canopy (click here for ideas).  And obviously, clothing matters. Megan’s rule of thumb? Dress her children as if it’s ten degrees colder then it really is outside. She raved about the Tuffo Muddy Buddy, a $36 rain/snow/mudpuddle/fountain suit. It ranges in sizes from 12 month olds to 5 year olds and lightweight packability allow you to stow it away in your bag until you need it. Want to learn more about biking with your children? Come to our City Cycling Class for parents and kids this weekend and click here to join Kidical Mass DC’s mailing list. There are now FIVE Kidical Mass groups in the region. Join the fun!       

Women & Bicycles Tip: Go Intermodal

e6MXyK7ObZyMVaWZ7KTNlYi1U8M0BlyNV1r6XhihuwIThis entry is part of our Women & Bicycles Bi-Weekly Tips series. Women & Bicycles is WABA’s outreach and encouragement initiative to build a stronger women’s bike community and get more women on bikes. Click here to learn more and get involved.     This Wednesday, I’m presenting on overview on how you can incorporate other forms of transportation into your bike routine. Intermodal bike trips make your work commute a little shorter, your ride home a little faster, or your rainy day a lot less soggy. Plus, it’s good to have backup transportation options. We’re fortunate to have so many transportation choices in our toolkit (and our region), and it’s all about finding the right tools for the right job. Park and ride: Bike the last leg of your trip! Pack your bike, drive, and leave your car parked at a nearby Metro station or a friend’s house. Bike car Metro: Thanks to a WABA victory, you can take bikes on Metro during non-rush hours, at no additional charge. Metro’s rush hours are from 7-10 a.m. and 4-7 p.m. I became a folding bicyclist because thanks to another WABA victory, folded bikes are allowed on Metro cars during all hours of service, and don’t need to be stored in a bag. Some things to keep in mind: You must use the station elevators, never the escalators. If the train is full, wait for the next. Always give priority to passengers in wheelchairs. Bikes aren’t allowed at the center doors of a train, so find a spot at the front or rear of the Metro train, where you can hold onto the railing and your bike. If you don’t want to take your bike on the Metro, check to see if your area’s station has bike lockers. Most stations have lockers you can rent for $200 a year. Check out WMATA’s bike page for more information on riding the rails. Bike Metro Buses: Buses are a simple option for multi-modal bike commutes throughout the region. Bring your folding bike inside the bus, or store your non-folding bike on the bus’ front bike rack. The process of loading up your bike on the bus rack can be intimidating at first, but all it takes is some practice. Click here for the bestvideo tutorial on bus bike racks. Bike Bus Trains: For those who regularly use commuter trains like Amtrak, MARC, or VRE, folding bikes are allowed on all trains in lieu of luggage. On Amtrak and VRE, non-folding bikes can be taken on board if the train has walk-on bicycle service (in certain instances there’s a nominal fee). Be sure to check your chosen rail line’s website before planning your trip for details. Bicycle on Train Combining bikes with other forms of transportation certainly isn’t difficult—and it isn’t cheating! It’s a way to fully maximize your time. The choice to make your commute more easy, affordable, and enjoyable is a good choice, and that’s, in part, what biking is about: celebrating good choices.