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How I learned to Slow Bike

Amanda here!

A few years ago I heard about the Slow Bicycle Movement, and I laughed, literally, out loud. At the time I simply could not comprehend it. I used to ride a fixed gear and a road bike, and I was all about getting from point A to B quicker than if I took the CTA. I even had a couple Strava Queen of the Mountain standings around town. I was all about beating my previous ride times, shaving a few seconds off here and there. I was obsessed with tracking my rides. But ever since I got doored two years ago, I’ve been  riding a little slower.

When I got doored, I was riding to work in the South Loop, running a tad late, and going as fast as I could down Milwaukee Avenue. The section between Damen and Ashland is known for being pretty hairy, especially during rush hour, and I was in the middle of lunchtime traffic. I was squeezing in between the parked cars and traffic when a door flew open. I thought I could make it into the space between the door and traffic. I swerved into the moving car to my, left leaning into it, and clipped my bars on the door. I was so sure I avoided the door. I stopped to turn around and yell at the guy for carelessly throwing his door open at me, only to look down and see a large amount of blood coming out of my leg, soaking my brand new white cleats.

The paramedics who came to take me to the hospital kept telling me how lucky I was, that this was the first time they’d picked up a dooring victim that didn’t have massive trauma. They rarely saw lacerations from doors. When I went back to the fire station to get my bicycle a couple days later, the firefighter told me I was the first person to come pick up a bike from their station after getting doored.

As soon as the stitches were out I was back on my road bike. But I had lost my confidence riding in the streets. I never used to understand when a friend or a customer would tell me that they thought I was crazy for riding in a city, because it seemed to dangerous to them, but after the accident, I started to get it. Something that used to make me so feel so happy and free was now stressful, even scary. A door would open a half block ahead of me and I would panic.

I thought maybe if I got a more stable, slower, bike I would be able to overcome the stress. When I was working in retail shops, I would always steer my more timid, inexperienced customers to that type of bike, to help build self confidence in their riding. I also remembered reading about the Slow Bicycle Movement and decided to apply it to my own riding.

I stopped using Strava, got a step through frame, 7 speed commuter bike with a rack and big girly panniers. It’s not light, the components are not great, and it’s not a beautifully designed. But it helped me rebuild the confidence and get back to my old self. I started making a point of taking the lane whenever possible, and staying out of the “door zone”. Taking less congested routes and wider streets – no more Milwaukee Ave. between Damen and Ashland.

I’ve been riding in skirts, dresses, and whatever shoes I wanted to wear, instead of spandex and my cleats. I finally figured out that dragging around a change of clothes and shoes everywhere was unnecessary.

I started giving myself extra time to get places; I found that I was considerably less sweaty, even riding on hotter days. I didn’t have to take 5-10 minutes to cool off and get my breath back under control before I went into my voice lessons.

I was enjoying every ride more, I was finding local businesses that I had never seen, like the yarn store on Division, or a new restaurant. Little details on buildings, murals, sculptures, flowers, people walking cute puppies! I also noticed that I was smiling a lot more.

No more urge to pass the person ahead of me, like I’m in my own personal race. (Yeah, I used to be that person.) No more weaving in and out of traffic or blasting through intersections for this girl.

I think that every rider ought to incorporate some of the slow biking concepts into their commute. Slow cycling makes for happy, low stress rides, and I don’t plan on speeding up anytime soon… even if I’m running late.

Hi! I’m Amanda~

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Hi everyone, my name is Amanda and I’m Pedal to the People’s newest employee! Right now we’re calling my position “Office Administrator”, which might change at some point, but for now I like it! You might get me on the phone when you call to make an appointment, run into me at events, or see me at the shop. I’m very excited to be a member of the Pedal to the People team!

I’ve been riding bikes for as long as I can remember, and I’ve been working as a part time sales associate in bike shops for the last 8 years. I’ve been in Chicago for 3 years, and even after the nightmare winter we just had I think I’m in love with this place. 

Hope to see you around,

❤ Amanda