Use the power of your bicycle to support your favorite causes this year!
The calendar is filling up as bike events release their ride dates for the year. How do you choose the event you want to participate in? One consideration is the cause behind the event. Check out the website to see if the event has a beneficiary.
Sometimes events with beneficiaries require a fundraising minimum, but often they do not. Merely participating in the event may be a way to support a non-profit organization. Often you can also make an additional tax-deductible donation at the time of registration.
Fundraising for a bike ride isn’t hard – it just takes a little time and a lot of gumption the first time around. Ask your questions below, and our panel of experts will weigh in.
A mere 100 miles off the coast of the United States lies a land of contradictions: rich with the culture of music and profoundly warm people amidst a decaying infrastructure firmly rooted in the past. Since 1492, Cuba has been repeatedly colonized, fraught with corruption and politically and economically isolated from much of the world.
Yet Cuba has an enchanting pull that utterly captivates people. Perhaps it is the contrast of harsh crumbling buildings against the glistening of the narrow island’s seemingly endless coastline. Perhaps it is a yearning for what Cuba once almost had, a hope for what it could still be, and an appreciation for how they have made do with so little.
People are drawn to Cuba and for most of the world, traveling there is nothing new, but for Americans it is. Now that travel restrictions have been lifted, Americans are flocking to the island that lacks a robust waste management program (household and commercial trash is commonly tossed in rivers).
Bike travelers Ashley Lance and Daniel Carter had been considering a trip to Cuba for quite some time. Maybe later, they thought; other trips were higher on their list. As more Americans begin to visit Cuba, the two got to thinking about the ramifications of cruise ships descending upon the island nation. They were concerned that a certain amount of what makes Cuba CUBA would harder to see and experience when coated in a sticky film of American tourism, both in terms of the increased waste and how Cubans perceive American travelers. Insert obnoxious American tourist stereotype here.
So Cuba was quickly bumped up on Ashley and Daniel’s bike travel list. Seven months of planning later, they found themselves eagerly sitting on an airplane bound for a three week trip to Cuba.
PLANNING THEIR JOURNEY
Cuba is a much larger island than most people realize. At nearly 43,000 sq miles, it is roughly half the size of Oregon. Knowing they wouldn’t be able to see it all, Ashley and Daniel chose some destinations in advance, and left the rest up to along-the-way research and recommendations. They designed a 650-mile figure eight loop with plenty of room for adjustment on the fly.
Ashley says one thing was for certain: they knew they wanted to be in Cienfuegos for Christmas. The city, known as La Pearla del Sur (the Pearl of the South) is a World Heritage Site revered for being one of the best examples of early urban planning. With influences from France, New Orleans and Philadelphia, the well maintained city on a bay features gorgeous architecture.
JUST ROLL WITH IT
Ashley and Daniel are adamant that a relaxed approach is key when traveling in Cuba, “Even the best days have rough moments,” Ashley explains. “So much comes up that you don’t expect. And we would hear about interesting places from other travelers. It was great to be able to modify our trip on a day to day basis.”
When prompted to explain what they meant by those rough moments, Ashley and Daniel were hard-pressed to provide concrete examples. Though the two are experienced travelers, Cuba has pervasively challenging elements that seemed to influence everything.
For one, the road was physically rugged; Cuba’s budget for infrastructure of all types is glaringly absent and it was evident in the condition of roads. This led to a variety of problems, including the loss of fresh laundry drying on the back of Ashley’s bike (she eventually found a place to buy a new pair of underwear.)
And then there’s the lack of snacks. It wasn’t just that Ashley and Daniel had a hard time finding their favorite treats, they could barely find any at all. Packaged foods are rare in Cuba, and that certainly applies to snack foods, a rewarding staple of most bike tourists daily diet. Many days they held out for full meals, which were plentiful though lacking in variety or flavor.
Ashley and Daniel quickly realized that a lot of these hassles would continue throughout the trip, and they immediately adopted the copacetic attitude of well-heeled travelers. “You can’t do anything about it,” Ashley explained with a wave of her hand, “So you just move on.”
Struggles aside, they say the trip was special. Daniel, a former bike shop owner, was particularly sparked by the resourcefulness of Cubans “They may have limited resources, but they roll with what they have.”
HOW YOU LIVE?
Most locals were surprised to meet these two Americans traveling through Cuba. Several people told Ashley and Daniel they had met plenty of Canadians, Brits and other travelers, but Ashley and Daniel were the first Americans they had ever met. The travelers were often greeted by Cubans eager to practice their English with native speakers, beginning with “How you live?” a common way of asking, in English, where someone is from.
“People would come out of buildings to wave as we passed,” Ashley explains. “There was almost always a friendly holler and a wave wherever we went.”
Because they were traveling by bike, Ashley says they had more of an opportunity interact with people and see places they wouldn’t have otherwise. “There are areas where all the tourists go, but often just a few miles away is a hidden gem that the tourists blaze right through. Because we were on bikes, we could stop wherever we wanted. Locals were surprised when we told them some of the places we had been.”
AT ONCE QUIET AND VIBRANT
Cuba is a long and narrow island, 760 miles in length and 55 miles wide. It is comprised of rolling hills dotted with frequent towns along the way.
Though the roads are rugged, they are also rather empty. Cuba has a notorious lack of cars and many people travel by bike or with a horse and carriage. Drivers are accustomed to seeing slower moving traffic on the roads and they give plenty of space as they pass by. The quiet of these desolate roads really struck Ashley and Daniel, especially as they were in the remote Pinar del Río region on the west end of the Island.
The food may be bland, the water tainted and the infrastructure crumbling, but there is a gorgeous vibrancy to Cuba that transcends those concrete elements. Cuban ingenuity has allowed people to persevere amidst adversity. Color and harmony radiate from a people filled with love, an openness they extend even to a couple of weary foreigners travelers arriving by bike, ever in search of elusive snacks.
ASHLEY + DANIEL’S TOP RECOMMENDATIONS
A quiet region with spectacular views though the roads are especially beaten up.
A beautiful historic area with very few tourists.
This gorgeous city on a protected bay has been well maintained now that it is a designated World Heritage site.
A cool, artsy, liberal college town.
Known as the Cancún of Cuba, this long peninsula extends a relaxing 12 miles into the Atlantic Ocean.
WHERE TO STAY
Casas Particulares, which are similar to B&Bs or the pensiónes of Europe, are the most common way to stay the night in Cuba. Residents earn extra income from these friendly sanctioned accommodations that include private space and often breakfast. Casas Particulars are designated by a sign on the door, and it’s okay to simply knock and inquire about availability.
WHAT TO PACK
You can easily travel light in Cuba. There is very little open land as most is used for farming, so you won’t be camping or cooking on this trip. Daniel says he wishes they had left all of those supplies behind.
Not all accommodations have enough bedding, so bringing a light sheet or blanket.
Bring your own bars and snacks as you’ll be hard-pressed to find them once you arrive in Cuba.
TP, sanitizer and a water filter are helpful items to have, even when staying in hotels.
CUBAN FOOD AND DRINK
Street pizza is the snack of choice. In most cities you can find this side-of-the road grab and go food, though the quality varies widely. “You’re always sort of rolling the dice with street pizza, “ Daniel explains.
There isn’t a lot of variety beyond $.32 Spam-style sandwiches, egg sandwiches, fried chicken, fried plantains and rice and beans. Vegetables are sparse.
“One of the quickest phrases I learned how to say is, ‘pollo frito y una cerveza por favor,’” says Daniel of his many dinners of fried chicken and beer. Sounds pretty perfect after a long ride.
Like most places, the guide books list establishments that are often over priced and underwhelming. Ashley and Daniel say they found better success walking just a block or two off the beaten path and either looking for interesting signs or asking for recommendations.
HELPFUL TIPS AND NOTES
Internet access is not reliable.
Airbnb does operate in Cuba, but once you are there you will have difficulty accessing the platform. Unless you are certain of your plans, Airbnb might not be the best option.
Filtering water is recommended and the water doesn’t taste good, so you’ll want to add in something for flavor.
Bone up on your basic Spanish. Though Cuba is closer to the US than Portland is to Eugene, it is indeed a Spanish speaking country.
Learning the specific Cuban dialect and some phrases is fun and helpful as there are distinct elements that even fluent Spanish speakers won’t be familiar with.
Daniel recommends the Trimble app for GPS navigation and downloading maps, which he says has yet to let down and is very accurate.
Be flexible. Cuba is not for the rigid traveler.
ABOUT THEIR SETUPS
Bikepacking style: a rando seat bag, frame bags, front panniers. Plenty of places to hold water bottles – Cuba is hot.
Gunner Grand Tour
Comfortable when weighted or not
Sturdy without being unnecessarily heavy
Cinelli Hobo (officially called the Bootleg)
Sturdy, comfortable and good for a touring set up.
Ashley and Daniel are presenting a slideshow and talk on their trip.
Sunday, February 12
Velo Cult Bike Shop & Tavern
More info >
This is one of our favorite routes in Portland! There is so much to see and do along the way with this ride. If the weather is good, plan to spend some time hanging out on the beach at Kelley Point Park. Bring a book – maybe even your suit! Kelley Point Park is a fantastic swimming spot in the summertime.
They say that a family that bikes together stays together. We say that a family that costumes together stays together. Fortunately for the Alig family of North Plains they have both of those elements totally nailed.
We first noticed the Alig family when they were dressed as dalmatians at the 2012 Tour de Lab bike ride. They looked AWESOME.
One day we were going through photos from Worst Day of the Year Rides from over the years and we noticed that the Alig family popped up every few years with impressive group costumes. So we decided it was high time we caught up with this creative biking family.
Maybe you’ve seen them out there. They’ve arrived by bike dressed as Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man and ghosts, Cat in the Hat, dinosaurs, crayons and then last year, Minions and banana at the Worst Day of the Year Ride.
We sat down with dad Tim Alig to find out more. Along with his wife Anna and sons Zach (9) and Travis (7) they are quite the creative biking bunch.
Does your family get creative with other events, or mostly the Worst Day of the Year Ride?
The costumes usually start as Halloween costumes and get reused at the bike rides.
Why do you like dressing up as a family?
We enjoy the reactions from other people. The kids think the costumes are fun and cozy.
Why do you like participating in the Worst Day of the Year Ride?
The ride is a way to get out in the middle of winter. The kids enjoy the bike ride and other costumes. It’s also a way to teach the kids that it doesn’t have to be perfect outside to go do something.
What do your kids think about being involved in the event?
They like the treats at the stops and the challenge of the ride.
Who is the mastermind behind most of your getups?
The ideas come from the kids, I restructure the ideas into a feasible theme and Mom makes the costumes.
We know what you’re all wondering and Tim says, yes, they will be at this year’s Worst Day of the Year Ride. As to what their costume will be, he’s tight lipped, “That will be a surprise,” he says.
A Family That Rides Together
Tim and his family are no strangers to bike rides that are much more intense than the quirky Worst Day of the Year Ride. They have completed several self-supported tours, including a 500 mile month-long trip along the Sierra Cascades bike route form Hood River to Hilt, CA. “We have plans to to complete the Washington and California sections a some point in the future.”
The family has also ridden through the San Juans and Victoria, Canada and along the Old West Scenic Bike Way. Later this year the family plans to ride the Bitterroot, a 300k ride in Idaho and Montana, the Monster Cookie Metric Century out of Salem and a backpacking trip through the Wallowas.
“The main thing is teaching the kids that they can go on adventures and things don’t always go right. Our 500 mile trip was hampered by a fall off the monkey bars and a broken arm for my youngest. We’re not particularly fast or strong, but we still make it,” Tim says.
The ride says costumes aren’t required, but we feel the ride just wouldn’t be the same without them. Even if you simply don a wig over (over, not under – it’s much radder that way) your helmet, you’ll be getting into the true spirit of this wacky annual tradition.
Special thanks to Tim for sharing these family photos with us.
We are strong advocates of rewarding yourself after a particularly cold and rainy ride, and a cozy drink is the perfect way to warm up.
Here’s our favorite recipe for a hot winter drink that’s perfect for cyclists.
2 cups of almond milk or dairy milk
3 1/2 ounces high quality dark chocolate (chips or powder both work)
1 cinnamon stick broken in half
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons dark rum, or more to taste
Warm the milk in a saucepan, using caution not to boil it. Break the chocolate into pieces and add to the milk along with a cinnamon stick, honey and chili powder. Stir gently until the chocolate is melted.
Add the vanilla and mix with a small hand whisk. Still whisking, add the rum. Taste to see if you want more.
Pour into two mugs, ensuring each one gets a cinnamon stick.
Put your feet up, relax and sink in.
How do you cozy up?
What is your favorite post-ride drink on a particularly cold and rainy day? Share your suggestions below.
With all those miles we’re putting on our bikes, it’s important to think about our bodies when they’re off the bike, too. For many of us, while we may long to be on our bike all day, in reality we’re at a desk, slogging away at a computer. Spending endless hours at the computer is taking its toll on our health, but there are some simple ways to combat the ails of working life.
We sat down with Linda Watts, ergonomic expert and president of the Sorella Forte competitive riding club to find out more. Linda works for Fully, a furniture company based in Portland that believes movement is good.
Why do you think sit-stand desks have become such a trend?
The science is clear and you feel the health benefits right away. Long periods of sitting directly increase our risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers. By encouraging us to move more throughout the day, sit-stand desks lower these risks, keep us out of the chiropractor’s office and boost workplace productivity. This is the easiest entry to workplace wellness, whether you work from home or at a corporate office. And as cyclists, we intuitively understand that we shouldn’t leave our bodies at the door with our bikes!
Why is an ergonomically friendly workstation important for people?
A body and mind in motion tends to stay in motion, surfacing our best ideas and our best work.
Active sitting is the other big part of the sit-stand desk equation. Having the right chair for a sit-stand workstation does a body wonders. When we sit, gravity tends to overtake our bodies and the “afternoon slouch” gets the better of us. Having a well-fitted chair helps combat this slouch by protecting our spines, improving our circulation, and reminding us to move again. No more mom telling you to “sit still.” Move, fidget, change body positions. There is no wrong way to be in an ergonomic chair, except for too long!
When standing at your sit/stand desk, an anti-fatigue mat can help alleviate leg and back muscle fatigue. My favorite is the Topo mat by Ergo Driven.
How does an ergonomically friendly workstation dovetail with cycling or an active lifestyle?
What we do from 9-5 is the biggest chunk of our active lifestyle. All of my best ideas occur on my bike from a clear mind, the fresh air in my lungs, and the blood and fluids pumping through my body that encourage my brain synapses to fire. I never want that euphoria to end. Walking from my bike to my Jarvis sit-stand desk, I can avoid the hard shift from all movement to zero movement, and skip all the stiffness, soreness and stress by moving through it.
At Fully, it’s about embodiment of the mind/body connection. You will naturally become more aware to be more present while you work. And we’ll continue to design products that encourage your body to move in more natural positions.
We test everything we release on our site, so our customers can feel confident that it’s the best product for its function and value. At the same time, we also want to make accessories that we want for ourselves.
We’ve got some cool ones:
- A power grommet to make charging your devices convenient.
- A desk lamp that has temperature and intensity control, and a USB charging plug-in on the base.
- Wire tamers that are stronger and more accessible than any other on the market.
- Monitor arms and laptop trays that help you work in the ideal ergonomic position.
- And of course, our favorite height-adjustable seat for your height-adjustable desk. The chair that started our entire company, the Capisco.
Beyond just the physical awareness, we will soon be releasing a product that helps diffuse noise and offers personal privacy around your workstation. Like many offices these days, we have an open floor plan with hardwood floors and tall ceilings. And at full capacity it can get a bit unruly. So our goal is to allow you to be your best self at work, and we feel these products will provide that much more focus.
What does someone say to the HR department to convince then to make the switch to a more ergonomically friendly workstation set up?
Less sick days, lower health bills, more productive staff, and easiest entry to wellness at work. Companies hip to their employees’ well being attract and keep great people. And people should scope out workspaces before they commit to moving their lives there.
What else should we know?
Fully is a collection of movement junkies from bike builders, sprinters, hikers, yogis, skateboarders, climbers, meditators, tango and hip hop dancers that agree on one simple thing: the human body was meant to move, all day long. Our office is a play-gym of products under development; the stuff we love working at most, we bring to market. We even keep a little diary of our life-at-work adventures (you can read it here)