meet the girls

Well, not the girls - they won't be making an internet debut today (or ever) - but my girls. Shit, that's the same thing, isn't it? MOVING ON. Meet my trusty steeds, my constant companions: my "new" bicycles.

A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, I told you about the new bicycles we were building. Bikes are a big part of our life around here, and in our recent throw-caution-to-the-wind, quit-my-job, move-across-state-lines-without-housing adventure we also decided to improve on our bike situation. It was a big financial decision to make and I was nervous about making it, but I'm incredibly glad we did. 

So without further ado I present my two, new(ish), beautiful bicycles. They are two very different ladies with two very different personalities and functions. And I absolutely love them both.

This is Jeanine. Jeanine the Mean Cream Machine. Jeanine is a single speed, hand-built, custom Mission Bicycle. (Look, she and I are internet famous!) She’s a warm cream color with silver components, black bullhorn handlebars and a bling-y gold Japanese Izumi chain. She’s aggressive. She’s extremely light, quick and responsive. And she is so sexy. This is a bike I had dreamed of building for some time, and I have to tell you, from the very first night I rode her home from the shop I couldn’t believe I waited so long. I was head over heels that first ride. Full disclosure: my husband works for Mission Bicycle. That said, I would have absolutely zero qualms about telling you if I didn’t like this bike. But I just can’t tell you that. I love this bike. I designed it, I actually built it with my own two hands (with Kai’s help, of course) I think she’s gorgeous AND really good at her job. While Kai has worked for this company for a long time, I rode a different brand - a Jamis Coda - for four years before I made the leap. Even then, I took convincing. But now? I'll say it again: I absolutely can't believe it took me so long. I think it gives Kai's boss real pleasure to say "I told you so," because you know what, he did. And he was so right. This bike is a true joy to ride. She's my two-wheeled, leg-powered version of sports car. 

For getting around the city, Jeanine is my wonderwoman.

Then there's Goldielocks. Goldie is a Velo Orange Polyvalent frame built up with a beautiful Brooks saddle, drop handlebars, and 650b wheels. (Since this photo was taken I've also added a front rack to carry my awesome ILE bag.) Goldie was built with summer bike touring / bike camping in mind; as you can see from the photos, the geometry of this bike is more relaxed, allowing for more control when the frame is weighed down with bags full of camping gear. Goldie is going to rock my world this summer when the rains abate and Kai and I head out on the trails to spend our weekends off the beaten path.

It feels like good timing to finally write about these two lovely ladies because I am finally back to bike commuting. Riding to work is not new to me; I rode my bike to work every day for last 4 years in San Francisco. But I’m ashamed to say I’ve been driving to work here in Portland since early November. I did not move to the most bike-friendly city in the whole US just to become a car commuter!

However, this commute is substantially different. When I first started bike commuting, I had a 5 mile downhill jaunt to my office on Market Street. Then the gods of favor smiled on me and I started working less than 2 miles from our apartment – a much more hilly route, but super quick and easy no matter which way you slice it. That's true commuter happiness, friends.

This time, my commute is almost 24 miles. That’s a hair shy of 12 miles each way. And while I said that the East side of Portland is relatively flat, the same is not true of the West side. This ride is intense, and it's leaving my legs pretty rubbery at the end of the day. On the way in to the office I climb a little over 1,000 feet. It takes an hour and 6 minutes at my absolute fastest, and an hour twenty on an average day.

But it's also a lovely ride, down quiet residential streets, over one of Portland's many bridges across the Willamette river, through the bustle of downtown, up through mountainous Forest Park, and finally the last several miles along a separated bike path that ends practically right at my office door. The views are incredible, the weather has almost entirely cooperated, and I'm easily ten times more awake when I arrive this way. Plus, when this is your commute, who needs the gym? I'm sticking with it.

Jeanine and I on our first ride to work together, back in San Francisco.
Goldielocks and I on our first ride, the epic car-free adventure around Oregon's Crater Lake.

If you know me at all, you've heard this a thousand times, but it bears repeating: happiness is pedal-powered two wheels, friends. A bike ride is a guaranteed mood elevator. It's a guaranteed free parking spot right out front. A bike is an adventuremobile, a community creator, a joy making machine. Becoming a cyclist has been one of the biggest positive changes of my life, and I encourage everyone and anyone to try it. You won't regret it.

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