Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Gary Fisher at Bikesport

Gary Fisher was in town this week, and he was gracious enough to come to Bikesport in Trappe, Pa, (my new hometown) for an extended visit tonight.  In the picture above, Ginny, the owner is introducing him to a large crowd.  He spoke for a few minutes about subjects from Hollywood to Trek's new line of transportation bicycles.  He also deliberated a bit about the future of transport bicycling, instilling hope in those of us who want to see more of it.  After watching Klunkerz, it was really neat to get to meet him in person.  He is just the same as he was in his interviews for the movie.  He is a great guy, very personable and sincere, and someone who has had the pleasure of changing the world.  I am about to leave for Hong Kong, which has a mountain bike association, that works hard to promote the sport and acquire permission to create trails in the public parks so that anyone who wants to can get into it and reap the benefits that mountain biking offers.  This is due in no small part to Gary Fisher.  He began living a dream life back in the 80's and is still going strong with no sign of stopping.  It was a pleasure meeting him.

Another neat thing about tonight is that I got to share the platform with him.  Ginny asked me to speak at tonight's event too, about my experiences with bicycle advocacy so far.  I talked for about 8 minutes, and it seemed well received.  That was my first time doing that, and I hope I get more opportunities for it in the future.  I really enjoyed it.  Here is the transcript from my speech:

"Hello.  My name is Matteo Favero.  At the end of summer 2006 I rode over the Golden Gate Bridge with my brother on a visit to San Francisco.  That ride ignited a love of bicycling for me that has yet to burn out.  In fact, it keeps growing.  

When I returned home to Charlottesville, VA I knew I was going to buy an expensive bicycle.  I started looking at brochures and websites, and I felt like a kid again.  Except this time whatever bike I got would be on my terms and not my parents'!  I visited every bike shop in Charlottesville.  One of them was a community shop, where I had the opportunity to strip and rebuild a bike.  My involvement with this shop progressed from being a patron, to an occasional volunteer, and ultimately to a leadership role.  Becoming a bicycling advocate was a natural outgrowth of the experiences I was having through my involvement at the community shop.  

As my basic knowledge of all things bike grew I was able to help others more with their bikes.  Also, I began learning how other communities used bicycles as a positive community building tool.  It didn't take long before I began seeing 'beyond the bike.'  I began viewing the community shop differently.  Even though it was a run down, leaky warehouse, I began seeing its potential for bringing people together.  When the summer of 2008 began the two people who were most involved in the shop were not going to be able to be there through the summer.  After learning more about its history I realized that there was no real hierarchy of leaders involved.  I decided to initiate myself as shop manager for the summer.  I loved going down on the weekends to open up shop, and getting dirty working on bikes.  I loved the camaraderie of meeting new people and volunteers.  I loved seeing people work together to fix bikes.  I began to understand though that many people in town did not really know about nor understand the community shop for its real potential.  I began learning about its history so that I could tell people how it got to where it was.  I also began talking about where it could be in the future.  Knowing the history and having a vision for the future was important so that people could see their own place in it all.  They would be able to understand it to the point of having a vision for their own positive involvement.  After others began to see how they could fit into the grand scheme of Community Bikes, they started to act.

I don't think I considered what I was doing at that time as advocacy.  I don't think it was until I attempted to organize my own project that I became an advocate.  While I was managing that summer, I met a few patrons who I learned were refugees from other countries.  The premise of the shop is that if a patron was going to take a bike they had to 'pay' for it by fixing it themselves with help from volunteers.  Well, one of the challenges that summer was having enough knowledgeable volunteers to help everyone who was there.  Usually there was not anyone available to help, and that left people on their own to figure it out.  For the refugees this problem was compounded by a language barrier.  I would see them in the shop struggling to get a bike rolling.  Then I would see them later on in town walking everywhere.  (We wouldn't let people take bikes out until they were safe.)  I wanted to do something to help, and a vision for how that could happen developed in my mind.  I wanted to get working bikes to them by having specific volunteers work on specific bikes for specific recipients, at the same time involving youth from a local school to give them an opportunity to help someone else in need.  But in order to implement my vision, I had to communicate with a lot of people in such a way that they could see it too.  That was a great learning experience, and in fact the communication aspect was the most difficult of getting my idea accomplished.  As I began talking, I learned how to focus my language to make myself understood more immediately.  I also learned how to be persistent with something in which I believed.  Ultimately my vision did come to fruition, and it was a very satisfying experience to have affected so many different groups of people in a positive way.  

Since that time I have been certified as a League Cycling Instructor with the League of American Bicyclists.  I had the opportunity to help coach the Charlottesville Boys and Girls Club Cycling Challenge Team.  I have led bicycle education classes to youth teaching them the skills of riding in the road.  Last March I organized a seminar in Charlottesville that certified 15 new cycling instructors, 5 of whom are from Charlottesville.  The other were from West Virginia, Maryland, Southern and Northern Virginia.  They are now using their status as instructors to even teach bicycle education to city bus drivers.

I have also experienced very practical benefits of bicycling as well, which fuels my desire to promote it.  When I first started commuting on a bike I felt first hand the improvement in my overall health.  It was challenging at first.  My breathing was labored, and the uphills were hard.  But as I kept doing it I got stronger.  Not only is there a physical benefit to cycling, but there is a mental one as well.  It helps relieve stress and rejuvenate attitude.  When my wife decided at the beginning of summer 2008 it was time for her to get a bike and start riding a mile and half to work, we could count on one hand how many times we put gas in the car between June and October.  We really noticed the savings.  I could talk all night about the special times I've had with my 3 year old daughter on the bike, pulling her in the trailer since she was one.  I am not anti-car, but our lives are dominated by motorized vehicles.  In our country heart disease is the number one killer of adults.  Motor vehicles is the number one killer of children under the age of 16.  Bicycling has a direct positive effect regarding these issues.  Promoting it as a needed aspect of our culture is truly a matter of life or death.

Through these experiences I think what I've learned so far about being a bicycling advocate is that it starts with knowledge.  Knowledge is a two-sided coin.  I had to gain knowledge for myself, so that I could better understand something before I got involved.  I also had to give knowledge I was gaining to help others better understand how they could be involved, and what exactly was being asked of them.  It also requires persistence and patience in seeing a vision through.  Just because someone is not understanding you initially does not mean they won't later.  Or maybe you just haven't met the right person yet who quite possibly has had the same idea already.  Ultimately, I think successful advocacy simply comes from the heart.  When you've experienced something that has been a joy to you, you want to share it with others.  The ways in which you do that become your advocacy."

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Bicycle Tube Jump Rope

It has been a long, cold, and snowy winter.  That usually would not keep me from getting out, but I stay at home with our children, and the youngest is only 9 months old.  I don't want to expose her to the cold and elements.  So, I have had cabin fever quite a bit.  My bones and muscles are feeling pretty tired and weak lately.  To help alleviate this I've been doing a bit of indoor cycling.  I learned to ride rollers last week.  A cyclist needs to do more than just ride the bike though to really stay in shape.  The body needs to do different movements, and be stretched more.  I'm taking it back to the basics:  sit ups, push ups, jumping jacks, pull ups, and jumping rope.  I was trying to think of other ideas of how to use old tubes when I grabbed one I had lying around, and just started jumping rope with it.  It worked fine without handles, but I really wanted to get handles on it, so of course old grips were the answer.  My local bikeshop, Bikesport, supplied these excellent quality Bontrager grips free of charge.  I wanted to show the rope in action to show that it works just fine.  

What else are old bicycle tubes capable of making?  I've made an air block for the door, and now this jump rope.  What have you made with them?  Please tell us.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Delivery Bicycle: Hong Kong

It is not much longer now, and I will be in Hong Kong.  I have been preparing a bit here and there every day.  I was looking through the photos I took the last time I was there in 2005, and came across this one.  I did not purposely make the bicycle the focus of the picture.  I was not a cyclist then.  I think this is in Wan Chai, though it could be any of the areas along the Victoria Harbour on Hong Kong Island.  This man must be on one of the delivery bicycles that the Hong Kong Vintage Cycling Club talks about in a video about their group.  I know that Fuji (this picture link is from Vintage Japanese Bicycles)made some beautiful bicycles in the same vein as these types.  I'm hoping I come across one while I'm there.  I at least want to find a vintage fuji bell to use on my Dahon while I'm there.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


I've recently learned about a new(ish) movie (Klunkerz) documenting the origination of mountain bikes, thanks to Topher at my local bike shop, Bikesport, who let me borrow it.  In a couple of weeks, Bikesport is hosting one of the people who started the whole mountain bike enigma, Gary Fisher.  My wife, as a winner of a recent drawing the shop held, gets to be a VIP at the event.  Pretty cool.  We'll get to meet Gary Fisher, and just have a good time hanging out.  We're looking forward to that.  One of the many facts I learned from watching the movie is that the first downhill mountain bike race, one they named Repack, happened in the same month and year that I was born (October 1976).  They called it Repack because the only brakes they had at the time were coaster brake hubs in the back, no front brake.  The suckers would burn up so much that they were constantly repacking them with new grease.  I have yet to get into mountain biking, but after watching this movie I feel like I've been missing out.  And if I do get into it, there would be no better bike for me to use than the 1980's Mt. Fuji.  If you ever see one, let me know!