Sometimes, planning is overrated. The idea of doing a year-end compilation of “best ride stories” penned by our friends and followers parachuted out of the blue and into our heads a scant three days before New Year’s Eve. Nine times out of 10, we would’ve tossed such a half-baked notion on the “Save It For Next Year” pile and moved on. But this time, we decided to run with it. Based on the overwhelming response we got, it’s safe to say we made the right choice. And by the time you’ve made it to the bottom of the page, we think you’ll agree. – CKY
(All photos provided by story authors, unless otherwise noted. Extra-special thanks slathered in awesomesauce to Bjorn Christianson for the “Go Cyclist Go!” image up top.)
Roz Jones | @rozjones
So, it was 35 degrees and we had managed to get to the top of Alto Pena Cabarga, thanks to our passes, shuttle buses and ambitious local driving. At this year’s Vuelta, one mountain stage defined the race, and not just because Chris Froome won. With Il Bison, Juan Jose Cobo being the hometown favourite, there was as much passion from the fans in this short climb than perhaps on the mighty Angliru.
I knew from our position in the baking hot VIP area that visibility of the first rider over the line would be limited. Leaving the offer of Cava and canapes behind, I headed towards the finish line to get a good position. I was very lucky as I have never managed to get such a great position at a stage finish. Normally only the professional photographers with accreditation can get in such a good position.
The photo confirms I made the right choice, showing an exuberant Chris Froome having conquered the steepest of gradients. For me, it was this stage that defined everything good about the Vuelta; new climbs, new talent and an appreciative audience. Looking forward to more cycling adventures in 2012 and beyond and hope one day I will reach the professional ranks of pro-cycling photography…
Tyler Buckley | @ThoughtDJ
Believe me, now that I work at a bike shop and run in social circles fueled by Clif Bars, craft beers, and the thrill of a steady cadence, I have plenty of bike stories to tell. But looking back on the year has me feeling a little sentimental, so I’ve decided to use this opportunity to reflect on my year in bikes in a more overarching manner. So here goes nothing.
For four years as a graduate student in Milwaukee, Wisconsin my bike was, in many ways, a necessary evil. It was cheap transportation, it was a set of wheels that didn’t need to be visited every hour to plug a meter, and it took me where I wanted to go on my clock. While 2011 found me stepping away from higher education and a bike-friendly commute, the past year gave me the opportunity to see my bicycle from a different perspective. Instead of being a tool of frugality and pure utility, it became a gateway to the finer things in life.
In 2011, my bike exposed me to overly ambitious single-track, the wonders of a quality chamois, an appreciation of PBR tallboys, all-weather neighborhood rides, a leaner build, and number of friendships that have made my return to the Twin Cities a ton of fun.
So here’s to more of the same in 2012. And if you really want to hear the funny stuff, we can talk about strange bike shop requests, outfitting comfort bikes for single-track, and helping a proud customer get his mail-order bride decked out in the finest road attire while she pranced about the shop in impossibly high heels and jeans that made even the most form-fitting Lycra look baggy, Just let me know.
Kat Fowler | @TYFSM
Earlier this year I made a big decision — the same decision more people are beginning to make these days. I sold my car and joined the growing crowd of commuters using alternative methods of transportation to get around. Whether it’s because of the going green, the tough economy or just wanting to see the world in a different way, I was among people of all skills getting out on their bikes for the first time in the madness that is urban traffic.
All of a sudden it was me vs. thousands of cars, glass, potholes, buses, car doors, stray dogs, frustrated drivers. The learning curve was huge and I wasn’t 100% aware of cyclists when I had my car either so I knew that these people weren’t necessarily aware of me on my bicycle. Believe me, this new found vulnerability scared me, but, I always had a comforting piece of advice that kept me pedaling and a little less scared.
Someone once told me that “In order to be seen you must consciously think about being seen then make yourself visible to the world.” Visibility is an action, but, I also realized that being visible isn’t just going and buying the required lights and reflectors for your bike, it’s also about your state of mind. Being seen is a state of conscious awareness.
Sometimes, on a long stretch of road, I found myself dissecting the incredible moments of serendipity I experienced in my life. I would pull up to a light, stop then look over and see you, in your car, or you, crossing the street, and I would think “I wonder what their life is like, what is their story?” My background in photojournalism leads me to search for stories to tell and I am that person that asks questions about who you are, where you’re from and then in a beautiful moment we find that we’re connected in some way, some how…it is this inherent curiosity that leads me to think about our well being on the road and I believe it’s what inspired this idea. It was simple. Thinking about the advice I received about making myself visible to the world, I thought, wouldn’t it be great to simply thank someone for actually noticing me in my vulnerability?
In a divine “bike-lane moment”, Thank You For Seeing Me was born. I’m lucky that I have a background in design too because even the logo seemed to float down from the ether. The next day, still reeling about the divine bike lane moment and in another incredible moment of serendipity, I happened to meet a woman with a visual impairment at my local bus stop. Curious, I asked her what it was like for her walking in the city and if she had a hard time getting around. She expressed how she wasn’t completely blind yet still carried a walking stick mainly to alert people to her disability. It didn’t always work for her. She said “It’s hard! People don’t see me out there. I can’t believe they still don’t see me even with my stick!”
Right then, the TYFSM idea started to really come together. If she was carrying an indicator of her impairment and still wasn’t being seen, then what needed to change was the general awareness of her. It was that moment I dedicated my time to developing the Thank You For Seeing Me brand to raise the level of visibility for all of us who share the road. Psychology studies show that kindness (a positive exchange) has the potential to make a great impression on our perspective of an issue and through a positive exchange of gratitude our goal is simple. Because a simple “Thank You” can go a lot further than a criticism or demand to be seen, Thank You For Seeing Me is raising awareness for cyclists and pedestrians through kindness.
The movement began in Los Angeles, and after a successful start on Kickstarter, the message started to spread. You might see TYFSM in your neighborhood on the back of a commuter or a decal on a car and you’re probably going to see the idea being promoted through your social networks too. When you do, take a second to share it and explain the concept to someone, maybe even send them over to the website or hand them a sticker. We all face the same sort of challenge on our daily commutes, and, weather we’re driving or pedaling, we are navigating the streets in a very dangerous situation that costs thousands of lives every year. Every time you talk to someone about this concept you are raising the level of visibility for all of us on the road and statistics are starting to show that we need it now more than ever!
We’re only a part of the army that is working to change our streets. Please seek out and volunteer for your local bicycle coalition, stop by your local bike shops, seek out and support policy changers and people dedicated to increasing bicycling infrastructure. Do what you can with what you have!
So when I see you out there on the road, THANK YOU for seeing ME.
Darryl Kotyk | @lovingthebike
As a guy who is always “Loving the Bike”, it’s hard to pick just one ride that makes for the best cycling story of 2011. This might sound fabricated, but I am thankful and extremely happy for each and every ride that I’m able to get out for and I always enjoy my ride. Living in Austin and having pretty much a full year cycling season, I’m out there all the time…but the one ride that stands out for me was the Livestrong Challenge in Austin.
I rode this year for the Kollective Fusion team that together raised over $25,000 in the battle against cancer. I also prepared more for this ride than ever before and was totally stoked and ready to fly when that day came. I took off alone and about 25 miles into the 90-mile ride I met up with two other guys and together we rocked out the rest of the ride at a personal record pace. We averaged just under 20 miles per hour and I felt incredible once we crossed the yellow finish line. I made new friends, had the ride of my life, and along with thousands of others, I rode in support of conquering cancer. One of many best rides of 2011.
Nathan Saxton | @VelociPrints
On January 12, 2011, my garage was a sort of assisted-living home for bicycles. The poor things rarely saw the light of day, maybe on bi-monthly outings to get their hair done. But as of December 31, 2011, I’ve met the best bike people on the planet, got my bike legs back, and become intimately familiar with all the potholes in a 100 square mile area. What was the catalyst for change? Creating a bike art show in Tucson, inspired by ARTCRANK, that has turned into a full-time online bike art business. The marriage of bikes and art has been no less than life-changing, and I can’t wait to see what 2012 brings.
Patrick Stephenson | @patiomensch
My favorite bicycling moment of 2011? Well, shoot, that’d be my last commute from St. Paul, Minn., at the beginning of May. A loft in the heart of downtown Minneapolis, with high ceilings and hardwood floors, stole me from SP and my old route to work. That morning, I rode the Marshall Avenue bridge, looked out at the Mississippi River (not as blue and warm last May as it should’ve been) as I sped across it, and tried to feel the full weight of the moment. My last commute from St. Paul, on a route that changed me hugely. Significant moments never feel significant when you experience them, even with their importance presaged; they only feel that way in retrospect, when you aren’t worrying about that pothole ahead or whether you’ll get to work in time. I tried to feel this one anyway—really feel it up, like a pubescent perv reaching second base—and then I rode another seven miles. I returned that night in an HOURCAR, to retrieve my girlfriend and our cats. Minneapolis rocks, but St. Paul surely owns a piece of my heart.
Andy Arthur | @cocteautriplets
July 2009. Went to help my dad move a flowerpot and burst the arse out of my suit trousers. 16.5 stones [about 230 pounds], overweight and unfit I took stock of my life and resolved to do something about it and use that bike that had been sitting in my bike gathering dust for years.
July 2011. End of a 770 mile, 12 day, 26,000 feet of ascending tour of Scotland, fully laden with 35kg+ of luggage and on top of the world (and over 5 stones [about 70 punds] lighter!!) Ridiculously happy and pleased with myself that I’d done something that I though only “other people ” could do. Topped it off by coming third in our club 10 mile time trial league, which is the first time in my life I’ve ever had any sort of award or recognition for doing any sort of physical activity.
All thanks to cycling.
CycleHermit | @CycleHermit
My most memorable racing moment of 2011 is Philippe Gilbert’s solo attack with 15 km left in Tour de France Stage 10 into Carmeaux. The panic it induced in the Peloton was delicious to watch. And though billed as an attempt at solo victory, it became clear that the vintage PhilGil puncheur attack was merely the first volley in Lotto’s war against HTC bid for yet another Cavendish win. Gilbert single-handedly decimated HTC, leaving Renshaw behind, and opened the door for Greipel to pip Cavendish at the line. The Gericault painting “The Raft of the Medusa” was the image that came to mind on seeing the Lotto team execute their perfect tactics.
Bob Richards | @BobRidesABike
My first thought of my best cycling memory of 2011 was actually my worst: The MN Gran Fondo Ride in May (34° F with a nasty headwind for the first 25 miles) that I fought through and completed. But really, the best is coaching my daughter to finally ride a bike by herself.
Until this summer, efforts to teach her to ride were made in fits and starts. Partly was laziness on my part. Partly it was fear on her part. Fear disguised as disinterest. But this summer, before her 10th birthday, the two of us made a concerted effort to make it happen. And now she’s riding everywhere she wants to go in town. And she is talking about riding RAGBRAI with me in 2012 or 2013.
I’m so proud of her. And excited for her. And thrilled to see that she’s excited about it too.
My favorite race of the year: Babes in Bikeland. This year I flew in hoping to capture the out of towner gold. Unfortunately, six blocks into Babes I got T-boned by a car flying through an intersection trying to catch the girl in front of me. Before I knew it I was on hood and then on the ground. The police, fire trucks, meds, and race officials came. As they’re trying to figure out the story – I started taking out my tools removing my mangled front wheel and pedals – plan B replace hardware or get a new bike ASAP. Some random dude even tried to swap wheels with me – but my gears were all bent up – game over … right?
I hopped into the car with the lady who hit me. ‘take me to a bike shop now lady’ we start driving towards the U and I see a Nice Ride Minnesota bike station. I rented this heavy ass commuter city bike and started the race an hour later. I hit all the stops on my manifest. At every stop I’m getting cheered on because 1) I’m on a Nice Ride 2) still going after the crash and 3) I’m from Seattle.
To my surprise I finished the race before it closed. Un-freaking-believable. Alley Kats are dangerous—but fun. ‘till next year, Minnie.
Carrie Zukoski | @velo_city
ARTCRANK is being picky so I can only write about one of my top four bike stories for 2011. I picked traveling to my friend’s wedding reception by tandem this past June. Dressed in our best summer wedding outfits (seersucker and a bowtie for him, a sundress for me), my date (the captain) got the tandem ready and we were off on the mile and a half of what seemed to be a smart decision.
We meandered through Forest Park in St. Louis, getting a few double takes and honks. The parking attendants weren’t sure what to do with our vehicle, which we easily secured right up front. Sadly the ride home never occurred. Before we left, the skies opened and within a few hours we had eight inches of rain. We ended up hitching a ride home in a car with others as the driving rain continued for several more hours. (Don’t worry, the tandem was rescued in the morning.)
Captain Badbeard | @captainbadbeard
2011 was the year I started riding my bike again, every day. As a teenager I was a big cyclist but beer, women, good times and hard living led me away from it for many years. This year I made sure I got on my bike every day. I learnt how to build my own wheels and for the first time I built my own bike from the frame up. Cycling is the freedom everyone needs, freedom to move, freedom to escape and freedom to sing at the top of your lungs while doing what you love.
My new year’s resolution is to get at least 5 people cycling. Every day.
[Photo at left is author's own. Photo at right is from ARTCRANK London.]
Genevieve Ruebel | @ruebelg
It was a mild summer day, when my husband and I decided that we must go on an invigorating bike ride on the Midtown Greenway towards Minnehaha Falls. We both put on our bike gear and took off. We were speeding along when I saw a wild glint in my husband’s eyes. With out missing a beat, he proceeded to lift his t-shirt up and pound on his chest like a gorilla. At which point, he hit his front tire on the curb and green goo started spraying out of the tire. Let’s just say it was a memorable moment. [What, no photos?]
Leah Preble | @leahinthestreet
A year ago, around the end of the summer, I was given a bike and started biking consistently for the first time since my childhood. This September I raced in my first alley cat: Babes in Bikeland. This experience was incredibly meaningful to me because when I started biking again I never thought I would be able to be in any sort of race; I thought I would never have the endurance or speed to do such a thing.
When I showed up at the starting point, I was pretty nervous because I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. As soon as I received a manifest and a map however, I realized that I knew where a lot of the stops were and how to get there due to how much I had biked over the past year. I was ecstatic when I rolled out as I had set two goals for myself, finish the race, and don’t come in last, and I knew I could accomplish both.
I got lost a couple times which was frustrating, and there were some points where I felt like I wasn’t going to have enough energy to finish, but overall I biked like a lunatic and had a silly grin on my face the whole time. At one point there was a car full of people that went by who were screaming and cheering for me as I flew down a stretch of road. It was a show of support that was completely unexpected and it made me feel pretty awesome.
In the end, it took me two hours to finish, I biked 30 plus miles, and I came in 111th out of 252 racers. Although I think those numbers are pretty good for a first timer, they ultimately don’t matter much to me. What makes this experience my best bike story from 2011 is that it was the point where I realized I was a much healthier and more confident person than compared to a year ago; biking had truly changed my life.
Jamie Grant | @jgrantis
I was part of two members from Team Steffie who took part in a three-day fully supported ride covering 530km from Lindsay, Ontario to Mont Tremblant, Quebec. We rode 240km the first day, the longest we had both ridden in a day, burning 1200 calories. Then we rode 190km the second day, finishing our ride with 90km hill climb. All raising money for our local Boys and Girls club. We raised over 12 grand and completed our ride with not one mechanical. This was the highlight of 2011.
Mike White | @MikeBoneshaker
Best bike moment? Too many. But here’s one: Riding out one late summer evening alongside the beautiful golden beard of fellow Boneshaker editor, Mr. James Lucas, in amongst a bell-trilling throng of hundreds of other cyclists of all shapes and sizes. Dusk was falling, and we were all excitedly heading to a secret location for Bristol Cycle Festival’s outdoor, ride-in cinema screening of one of my favourite films of all time – The Lost Boys.
Cruisers and cross bikes, BMXs and Bromptons, the convoy rolled out over an old railway bridge, across a park and into a deep, forested gorge, weaving along the river’s edge in the gloaming. The path was lit by candles. A life-size Kiefer Sutherland vampire loomed out of a tree, then suddenly we swerved left, through a tunnel and into an old quarry.
Bikes were everywhere, picnics and beers emerged from panniers as the screen flickered to life. We sang along to the soundtrack, pre-empted the best lines, whooped at the vampires’ messy deaths – then zigzagged the hazy miles back into town for the bikes and beats of the WeLoveBikes afterparty. Good times.
Peter Simpson | @cyclepath
I sometimes get to travel when I work and 2011 was exceptional. My first job took me to New York — Manhattan to be exact. The whole crew had bikes, and we rode pretty much every day, usually to work, and then after work to do laps of Central Park. My apartment was on 46th, between 2nd and 3rd, Central Park was up at 60th street, and every time we made it back through all the traffic (cabbies, buses, limos, pedestrians etc), I felt lucky to be alive, it was actually kind of addicting.
My next job had us located north of Detroit. I wasn’t expecting much in the way of riding but was pleasantly surprised. Auburn Hills, the city our apartments were in, was rich with wooded rolling hills and roads with actual bike lanes. I bought a cyclocross bike while I was there which was the perfect bike for the area and allowed me to ride the smooth roads and venture off into the single/double track trails that were everywhere.
Riding new roads and trails is one of my favorite things to do on my bike and this was a stellar year for that, and for that I am grateful. #theresnoplacelikehome
I remember standing at the door, helmet on, watching the surface of the puddles roil as they were pelted with enormous drops. I had the option of public transport, but I thought to myself: you can only get wet down to the skin.
The gutters were bursting as I rode, and water was invading the bike lanes. I felt like an astronaut, alone in a mad and dangerous pursuit. And then I saw another rider: head down, dripping, making an enormous bow wave. I smiled, and my mouth got full of water.
Anna Dorenboos | @bloomingcyclist
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that my first RAGBRAI changed my life. But this seven-day ride across Iowa pushed me to my limit and proved to me that no amount of heat, hills or saddle sores would keep me from loving my bike. Even when I called my bike a “two wheeled torture device,” there was never any question that I wouldn’t get back on it to ride mile after painful mile. Because as much as I threatened to quit, abandoning my bike, and the ride, never seemed like an option. And it’s now clear that even when I hate my bike, I still love my bike.
The picture perfect captures my RAGBRAI- red face and sweaty from the heat, bikes, tractors.
June: I rode my third MS150 with the incomparable Team 1FS/Team MSisBS and working with them to raise about $12,000 for MS research. Look what a bunch of dirtbags like us can accomplish! This year I plan to go as “team support,” and, instead of riding, set up camp at Hinkley and cook everyone an actual good dinner. Even better? I’m bringing along my friend Lucy, who is a massage therapist, and her massage table so that the team can get refreshed before day 2.
August: Right after picking up @bjornery and @jessinader from their excellent finishes in the Powderhorn 24 (I do believe Jessica Nadeau tied for 2nd place in the solo women’s category!), I found myself breaking up an alley fight behind Jessica’s house (during the Pizza Luce block party, so no one could hear me yelling for someone to call the cops and my phone was dead) by basically using Jessica’s bike frame (wheels weren’t attached at the time) as a battering ram. Bjorn showed up just in time to do some cop-calling (and have his own phone cut out), and the fight broke up for good as we saw the cops turn the wrong way down the alley. Alas! At least we got to see a guy with–no kidding–swinging, flaming balls. I don’t know a better way to describe it.
September: As part of my self-declared “September of Adventure,” I cajoled Bjorn, Jessica, Kat O’Rourke, and Randy Dever into heading out to take me on my very first century ride. I rode a one-speed, I wore blue jeans, I pretty much did it all wrong, but I joyfully survived, had a great time, and even got to stop for a quick break to watch my husband earn his green belt in aikido while my teammates got their drink on at Pizza Luce Seward. September also saw me get brave enough to do my first alleycat race, joining up with Team Momo for Babes in Bikeland. It was a total thrill, I found a competitive streak I didn’t know was hiding in there, and, like prob. everyone else, I cried like an idiot at the awards ceremony dance party. Having my husband man one of the checkpoints and dutifully order me to do a cartwheel was the icing on that cake!
Think that covers the highlights!
[Photo by Bjorn Christianson]
Gavin Strange | @BOIKZMOIND
The biggest thing that happened to me and the factory of Jam was the completion and release of my fixed gear bicycle film ‘BÖIKZMÖIND’. What started as just an idea for a 2 minute web edit turned into a 30-minute long documentary which premiered to over 300 people outdoors on the BBC Big Screen in the centre of Bristol and has organised screenings in over 30 locations around the world with many more planned!
The positive response really has been truly overwhelming and has lead to some incredible opportunities; I did a TV interview the night before the premiere on BBC Regional news including a live link-up at the premiere location and also went on BBC Radio Bristol to talk about the film and fixed gear bikes in general. It wasn’t all roses though, as during the making of it I was burgled and everything taken from my flat, including all my camera equipment and my Mac. Then months later my beloved bicycle itself was stolen, so 2011 really has had its shares of ups and downs.
The most magnificent of opportunities that presented itself last year was thanks to the wonder of the Internet and social media. Kyle Snarr, New Business Director of design agency Struck out in Salt Lake City, Utah found my work online years ago thanks to Will Beaumont, an old friend from Leicester. Kyle had followed my stuff and heard about BÖIKZMÖIND from me banging on about it online, he thought that Salt Lake City would be a great place to screen the film. Thanks to excited emails back and forth that screening turned into an opportunity for me to fly out to SLC, screen the film and give a design talk, backed by the SLC chapter of AIGA, the American Institute of Graphic Arts! Wow, simply put, it was the most incredible trip I’ve ever been on. I made so many new friends, saw so many new sights (Being sat in the Utah mountains with 44,000 other people watching a college football game is something I’ll never forget!) and I was overwhelmed with the positivity and inspiration I received from being there. Thank you to Kyle, Tim and all at Struck, AIGA and beyond that made that trip come to life, I’m truly humbled by it all.
Charles K. Youel | @ARTCRANK
Like everyone who shared stories with us, I’ve had a hard time picking one “best” bike story from the past year. While making the time to ride was challenge, I enjoyed every minute I spent in the saddle. I got to explore Amsterdam by bike, and put in at least a few pedal turns in every city that hosted our show. At home in Minneapolis, I hooked with my friends Ben McCoy, Adam Turman, Adam Ziskin, Jeremy Piller, Jeremy Werst and Bjorn Christianson for Sunday morning “Gentlemen’s Rides” (and believe me, I use that term loosely). Heck, I even got to bike to the St. Louis Cardinals World Series victory parade in October, thanks to my friend and ARTCRANK St. Louis co-conspirator Carrie Zukoski. But the more I thought about, the best bike ride I had in 2011 was probably one of the shortest.
Early in 2011, I collaborated with designer Rob Angermuller and Trek on the first-ever ARTCRANK bike. (I’ll skip the back-story on this collaboration, which you can find here.) The process culminated with the arrival of a bike box on my front porch one Saturday morning in August. I spent the day down in my basement workshop, gingerly unwrapping and assembling the bike, feeling like a Coke bottle after a dozen good shakes. I’d seen the frame and fork with full graphics at Trek’s headquarters in Waterloo, WI the week before, but I’d never seen the complete bike, much less ridden it.
When I finished putting on the wheels and stood back to take it in, I was one seriously conflicted individual. I wanted nothing more than to call up everyone I knew and turn the bike’s maiden voyage into a scene out of a DOOMTREE video. But at the same time, we were working on a massive launch promotion designed to coincide with our September show in Denver, and I knew in my heart of hearts that I needed to keep it under wraps until then. So I waited until about 10:00pm, threw a blinker light on the seat post and pedaled the scant mile from our house to the Lake Harriet bike path, which I knew would deserted.
Turning the pedals, marveling at the all-but-silent belt drive and looking out across the lake at the Minneapolis skyline, I had a feeling that transcended the standard new-bike buzz. My mind traveled back to the BMX bike I built when I was 10 years old: A Schwinn frame and fork with Tuff Wheel II mags, Redline handlebars and Oakley grips. It was black when I bought it, but after a month I sanded it down to the metal and painted it white, with red decals. At that age, I wanted to have the coolest bike in the neighborhood more than anything else. Some 32 years later, riding alone in the dark on the coolest bike I’d ever seen, I was pretty sure than 10 year old me would approve.