Book Reviews

Nat reviews Bikes Not Rockets: Intersectional Feminist Bicycle Science Fiction Stories

This awesome collection of 11 short stories answers the question that has always bothered me in science fiction “Why aren’t there any bicycles?”

This is the 5th book in the series published by Microcosm Publishing edited by Elly Blue.

When the opportunity came up to review this book for our blog Sam knew I was the feminist sci-fi reading and writing cyclist who is always on the lookout for a great read.

In the introduction Elly Blue outlines why when we build worlds and tell tales that we must actively engage in intersectionality. If we don’t think about all the axis of identity and oppression then we risk perpetuating the “isms” of the world we live in into our imagined worlds.

I have had the opportunity to go to WisCon, a feminist science fiction convention, the past two years.

WisCon and Functional Fitness

WisCon41 all the feels about disability

It was a wonderful experience but I also learned how some of my favourite genre stories are filled with unexamined ableism, sexism and racism. If we can build any world we want when writing why not create ones that challenge these inequalities?

As a fledgling writer I’ve set aside my apocalypse novel after realizing it was a story about privileged white people patting themselves on the back for figuring out how to live in the apocalypse the way many people around the world live today. Ya. That was an icky realization. I can do better. We can do better!

Elly Blue clearly knows how to get there and has sought out writers who are witty, funny and craft tender, engaging stories with characters I can relate to who take up the challenges in their lives while riding bicycles.

Novel cover art depicting a woman riding a bicycle through space. She wears a helmet and her pants are tucked into her socks. With toe clips, saddle bags and an oner the handlebar bag she clearly has spent many parsecs in the saddle.

Would you like a chance to win a copy of this fantastic book?

Like or comment before my Saturday post goes up at 6am EST and I’ll put your name into the draw.

The book was funded on kickstarter:

And if you are looking for more great stories the buck the norms in engaging ways check out the full catalogue at


Two arguments for biking. Also, Sam finds one obstacle removed at her new university

Argument 1: It’s faster to bike. 

According to all of the data on our smartphones–here’s looking at you Google Fit!–in urban environments biking time beats car travel time hands down

Argument 2: It can also help you get enough movement in your day. This week there were many headlines proclaiming that fewer than 20 percent of Americans meet the recommended advice for amount of physical activity.

From the NPR version of this story: “With a few exceptions, the advice in the new guidelines is not so different from what we were told in the 2008 guidelines. But, here’s the trouble: Only about 20 percent of Americans meet them. This lack of physical activity is linked to $117 billion in annual health care costs, according to a report published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association that lays out the new guidelines. The new guidelines marshal a growing body of evidence that documents immediate benefits of exercise such as reduced anxiety, improved sleep and improved blood sugar control, and long-term benefits (of regular physical activity), including cognitive benefits, and significantly lower risks of heart disease and certain cancers.So, how much physical activity do we need? On this point, the new guidelines haven’t changed: Adults need a minimum of 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity.”

For me, even if I do nothing else I meet these goals through bike commuting. 

What are your barriers to biking? One of mine has always been that I don’t like coming out at the end of the day to a wet, snowy bike. Once things get slushy I’m less likely to bring my bike into my office. Besides my workday often starts at other buildings and I’m arriving just in time for meetings.

I love that Guelph has abundant (like the one pictured here, centrally located, isn’t the only one) covered bike storage.

Covered outdoor bike storage at Guelph. Thanks Google for the black and white image.
cycling · fitness

Uh oh, Sam is bike browsing

My most recent round of bike shopping is related to my knee issues. I can’t walk to work. I have to bike. And it’s best even on campus if I bike between meetings.  But there are issues of clothing and issues about bringing my big bike into meetings. Also, because I need a bike to get around I also want to take it places when I travel. So, once again, I’m looking at Bromptons and other foldable bikes. 

Here’s me on one at CSWIP a few years ago. Thanks Alexis!

Image may contain: tree, bicycle, plant, sky and outdoor
But there are decisions. Do I want a proper Brompton? They’re pricey. There are also some Canadian brands that are cheaper.

Here’s the one I like the best of the Canadian bikes:

Might take a trip into Toronto and do some test riding. If you’re a folding bike fan, happy to hear your thoughts.
accessibility · cycling · fitness

Women and e-assist bikes… Sam has some worries

Image description: A white women’s arms in a white sweater resting on her legs. She’s wearing white bottoms with large white polka dots. Her hands are nervously clutching the fabric. Photo by Unsplash.

So first I hated electric bikes. I blogged about it. “The ones I hate are like bloated overgrown scooters on steroids with vestigial pedals. As far as I can tell no one actually uses the pedals. They’re just there to make the thing legally a bike. As the ad for e-bikes at a shop near my house says “Ride with no license, no insurance, and no registration.”

But not all e-bikes are like that. The best are like regular bikes with e-assist. You still pedal but it’s easier going uphill. Then I thought about it again, read some stuff and changed my mind. See Sam is sorry she was a bit of a fitness snob about e-bikes.

I learned about the fitness benefits of e-biking and thought about people riding long (for them) distances, especially carrying heavy stuff (groceries, children, etc.).

Then I talked to some women about their new e-bikes and got all worried again. The thing is it’s only women who are talking to me about e-assist. (Maybe men are also buying these bikes. I don’t know. They aren’t talking about, not to me anyway.) My women friends and acquaintances are claiming that without e-assist they’d never make it up hills. I know that’s not true. Hills aren’t my fave thing either but I’ve learned to live with them and make it to the top on my own steam. They say that now, and only now, they can keep up with their male bike riding partners. Maybe? But you could ride with other women. Or you could train and get faster. Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad they are buying bikes and getting out there. But I am genuinely surprised at the insecurity that seems attached to the decision to buy an e-bike.

Some of them, it seems to me, could have bought lighter, more expensive road bikes.

Maybe I’m fretting for nothing. I am glad more people are riding. It’s still good exercise and it’s great for the environment.

Thoughts? Have you considered an e-bike purchase?

athletes · cycling · fitness

Choosing a bike saddle by your number (Guest post)

Traditionally, finding the best bike saddle has been a challenging task. You really don’t know until you install and actually ride on it, if it’s a good choice for you.

There are many articles online about how to choose the best saddle but here is a method that you may want to try out if it’s available in your region.

I was recently in need of a new saddle, having purchased a used cyclocross bike that came with one that didn’t work for me at all (too hard and not a deep enough centre channel). I bought a replacement one at my regular LBS (“local bike shop”) that I thought might work but after installing it and riding for 5 minutes, I knew it was too wide for me. Thankfully the shop owner allowed me to return it. Lesson >>> only buy your saddle from a vendor who will allow returns. They are not cheap and you don’t want to get stuck with one that doesn’t work for you.

I asked around and discovered that my #2 preferred LBS had the RETUL device that will measure your “sit bones”. In addition to deciding on which style of saddle you want in terms of padding and centre channel, it’s also important to know what width is best for you. The general assumption would be that the width of your hips would determine saddle width, but this isn’t really true. The more important factor is the distance between your “sit bones”.

RETUL has a device that you can sit on, that takes this measurement and translates it into your ideal saddle width. According to the internet, other vendors also have systems, and you can even come up with a method to do this yourself at home. Here is what the RETUL device looks like:

sit 2

The measurement process has you sit on the device three times, and then an average measurement is calculated. My number is 131mm, which translated into a 155mm saddle. Here’s proof that you can get measured for a bike saddle while wearing a skirt!

sit 1

My friend A. has significantly slimmer outer hips than I do, but her result was just a bit smaller sit bone measurement and the same size saddle recommendation.

sit 3

With these numbers, we headed to the saddle display to choose from a variety of 155mm wide saddles, for different types of bikes and styles of riding and I got one that will work for me.

This measurement system is just one step in finding an ideal saddle for you. It may still take several purchases, trials and returns of saddles to find what works. Again, dealing with a vendor that allows returns is very important. A bike saddle is not something that I would consider buying online, given fit and comfort challenges.

Consider searching for a local vendor that has a system similar to the RETUL one when embarking on your next bike saddle purchase, and please, support your local LBSs.


How many bicycle ornaments does one Christmas tree need?

Here’s the tree!

Sam’s Christmas tree, next to the family piano

Here’s the bikes!

A red tricycle Xmas tree ornament

A red bike tree ornament

A silver tandem bike tree ornament

The answer is n+1 of course. I’m going shopping. Let me know if you see any good bike themed Christmas decorations.


“I would not, could not in the dark.” Yes, yes you can! Making riding at night fun

Lots of my friends who ride bikes aren’t that comfortable riding at night.

And it’s not just the night of course. More like the dark. And depending on where you live that can be 4:30 pm. Yikes.

So if you’re going to use your bike for fall/winter transportation you need to get comfortable riding once the sun goes down.

Here’s some of the things I do to make it okay…

  1. If you’re on the streets, around traffic be sure to be extra visible. Wear something super reflective. I’ve got this jacket.

2. Go for super bright lights, three of them at least. You want a solid red light at the rear and two bright lights at the front, one for your helmet and one for the front handlebar. These aren’t just to be seen they are also to see.

Why two? Why one for your helmet? You want to see where you are going to go, where you are looking. Since you won’t yet have turned your front bar light won’t be pointing there. At speed, in actual dark (as opposed to city street dark) you want a light on your helmet. Trust me. It’ll make sense once you are out there.

3. Go on a glow ride!

4. More tips

Here! “Sure, it’s dark and it’s snowy – but more and more cyclists are taking to the river valley trails each winter. Here’s 5 tips for staying safe from Women on Wheels YEG:

Do you ride in the dark? What tips do you have to offer?


Look, look, look! It’s the Bike Rally on Google Street View!

Screenshot 2015-09-21 18.16.02Who is that on Google Street View? Hey, it’s me and Susan on the Friends for Life Bike Rally. Even better it’s on our matchy matchy Simon’s Cat bike jersey day. Thanks Susan!  If you look at the bike path on Google Street View through Mallorytown apparently you can see most of the bike rally riders.

Here’s a closer look at our smashing jerseys.

I did the Friends for Life Bike Rally for a second time this past summer. You can read about that here, Riding the Friends for Life Bike Rally at a friendly pace.

I rode with my good friend and guest blogger Susan. She wrote about her experiences here and here.

I’m doing it again in 2016 and you can be my first sponsor!  Click here.

Here’s a closer look at us on Street View. Thanks Google!

Screenshot 2015-09-21 18.16.32



Bicycle ink: Cycling tattoos anyone?

Do you have a cycling related tattoo? Considering one?

Here are some great galleries:

And here’s mine. I love it. Thanks Anthony Veilleux at True Love in London.


It’s a silhouette of a vintage chainring, from this collection here.

competition · cycling

How not to get faster

There’s a very well known cycling quote, posted to the Facebook walls, Pinterest boards and tumblrs of cyclists (my own included) that goes like this, “It doesn’t get any easier; you just go faster.”  It’s by Greg LeMond. (Born in 1961, LeMond is, according to Wikipedia, “an American former professional road racing cyclist, entrepreneur, and anti-doping advocate. He was World Champion in 1983 and 1989, and is a three-time winner of the Tour de France.” So he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to getting fast.

But today I want to talk about the other side of the easier-faster coin. It’s much less celebrated and and likely wouldn’t be a fave quote on Facebook walls. It goes like this, “If it is just getting easier, you’re not getting faster.” Let me explain.

I’m often asked by beginning cyclist friends what they need to do to get faster. My glib response is, ride faster. And though that might sound obvious, it’s also true.

The advice I’m about to dish out here goes beyond my tips for beginning riders who want to go faster. And it’s advice that I know to be true and sometimes need to follow myself!

The thing is I’ve known lots of cyclists, me included, who when left to their own devices go out and ride 20-40 km at a speed that feels good to them several times a week. They then wonder why after months of doing this they aren’t getting faster.  The answer is that what you’re training by doing that is your ability to go out and ride 20-40 km at a comfortable speed. You won’t get faster but it will get easier. And easier doesn’t translate into speed gains.

Because really it shouldn’t get easier. You should keep pushing yourself. You need to push yourself. You need subsequent rides to be as hard as the first.

That’s a bit of an overstatement but the basic idea is right. Don’t spend too much time enjoying your new found comfortable speed/distance. Push on.

This is something that puzzled me back when I was a beginning runner. I spent awhile at a plateau where running got easier (my heart rate slowed down, I was less wiped out afterwards) but I wasn’t getting any faster. The thing is I didn’t want to go “back” to that out of breath, exhausted feeling of my early days as a runner.

It was humbling to learn that that was exactly what I needed to do (some of the time at least) if I wanted to make speed gains.

How do you do that? Here’s two ideas:

1. By adding fast intervals. Step out of your “ride for coffee with friends” mode and engage in bike specific speed training. There isn’t anything wrong with riding at a comfortable speed. We all do it lots when we ride socially but it isn’t training.

2. Don’t spend all your time riding with friends who ride at your pace or who are nice to you! Spend some of the time riding with people faster than you. Guest blogger Catherine Womack wrote about conquering her fear of returning to group rides and I’ve written about riding with friends of different speeds as one way to mix it up.

I need to do both of these things and rejoining a bike club with group rides and doing some bike specific speed training are on my agenda for next year.