It's National Bike Month - Three Weird Ways to Celebrate

© April Streeter
In Portland, any excuse for bike weirdness.

1. Visit Portland. See How It's Done.

For awhile there (2 years, to be exact), Minneapolis was top dog on the U.S. cities' bicycle-friendliness list that Bicycling Magazine produces. And why not? That city has a huge proportion of women riders (approximately 44% females/56% males) compared to other cities, likely due to its holistic network of separated bike paths and its good Midwestern approach to biking (Snow? Sleet? No problem). Now, in its newest review, Bicycling gave Portland back its bikey crown. Percentage-wise, nobody gets close to Portland's approximately 8 percent mode share. However, when you visit Portland, what you'll also experience, in addition to the Portlandia bike weirdness, which truly is special, is the accommodation that is happening between cyclists, vehicle drivers, and pedestrians. It ain't a perfect relationship, far from it. But Portland's bike vibe overall is positive. Visit Stumptown next month, when Pedalpalooza's three weeks of rides range from the sublime to the truly ridiculous. Enjoy this U.S. city's concentrated food cart culture, too. Ride your bike from cart pod to cart pod, trying to shed the calories you'll gain at each glorious stop. (Bike rentals at many locations; or bike and valet parking at new GobyBikepdx.com)

feykalius/CC BY 2.0

2. Plan Some Bike Camping.


A majority of Americans like to have their creature comforts with them when they camp, which has meant a big van or RV packed with provisions. Bike camping is a bit different, and is less accommodated at camp grounds - in fact, at the blog 2Cycle2gether, cycle touring couple Sheila and Kai frequently relate how camping spots on the west coast of the U.S. stick the bicycle campers in the worst - i.e. noisiest, least centrally located - spots of the campground. That's because bike camping and touring used to be considered somewhat extreme - but $5 gas may cause all manner of new and renewed past-times to awaken our interest, and bike camping is probably one of them.

Bike camping doesn't have to be bare bones - you can use all that money you didn't spend on gas and 'camp' with your credit card at the motels that appeal along your route. The image of bike touring and camping will also likely be helped along by the publishing of the book Cycling Soujourner by Ellee Thalheimer. Thalheimer only does the state of Oregon in this first tome, but she gives you everything you need to know to have a pleasant time, with even a few select luxuries thrown in. One of the best parts of Cycling Sojourner is the packing lists that help you leave nothing behind. My first bike camping destination? Wine country, from a base of Champoeg State Park near Newburg, OR.

© Beth Peltier

3. Do Something Pedal Powered.


Three students at the University of New Hampshire have created a bicycle-powered washing machine that uses less than ten gallons of water per load. The students Britta Moore, Garett Cassidy and Vincent Lyon, were intending the washer's use in nations where electricity supplies and appliances are still less than omnipresent.

Pedal-powered washing machines are fascinating, and we've seen a few at TreeHugger.

This trio's design is aimed to be assembled of very low-tech parts - a 30-gallon plastic drum drilled full of holes and placed inside a 50-gallon metal drum. Clothes, soap, and three gallons of water go into the inner drum to agitate and spins via gearing that links the user’s bicycle to the double-drum system. Washing, rinsing, and spin-drying each take 10 minutes of pedaling.

The most important design feature is that the machine can be unhooked from the bicycle, which can then be ridden away. Neither the first nor the last word in human-powered ingenuity, the bike washer is still a good reminder that pedal power is truly amazing, and worth celebrating in some fashion this month.

© Mike Ross, UNH Photographic Services

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