“I could never do that!”

Photo: Ryan Lovin

The best thing about my job is that I get to ride a bicycle, obviously.

But the next best thing about my job is that I get to talk with people about bicycling. I get to share my own experience incorporating bicycling into my life, and I get to talk about the experiences of the hundreds of people that I teach and work with throughout the year.

People ask me a lot of questions.

Here is the second most frequent question* I hear:

“Drivers are crazy! Aren’t you scared riding your bike in traffic?”

My answer to this question is simple: yes, sometimes. Most of the time I’m on my bike, I am enjoying myself, but sometimes I encounter situations that terrify me.

In both cases—when I’m just cruising along, and when something unexpected and dangerous happens—I know that I can rely on my training and experience to get me through. And that’s one of the most rewarding aspects about what I get do do at WABA: our Everyday Biking classes and rides can give you the same training and experience that helps me feel safe, and we can even make it fun!

Here are some of things we can help you do to feel confident on your bike:

Plan a route that’s comfortable, or even fun

Why choose roads that make you uncomfortable? One of the best things about biking is that there’s almost always a better way to go. Choose trails over roads, and choose roads with bike lanes over roads without. Choose shady roads in summer and sunny roads in winter. Choose roads that go by your favorite coffee shop, scenic views, or your grocery store. Choose flat roads when you’re tired and hilly roads when you’re looking for a challenge or some exercise.

Be predictable, be alert, and be lawful while riding (#BEaPAL)

I’m a rolling billboard for Bike Arlington’s PAL Ambassador program. Predictable riding helps me keep my space on the road I’m sharing with drivers and pedestrians. Staying alert means I’m constantly scanning my surroundings for the next hazard and trying to anticipate what’s coming. It also means riding at a slow enough speed where you can assess what’s happening around you. Riding in a lawful way means stopping at stop signs and red lights, yielding to pedestrians crossing the street, and riding in the same direction as traffic. Following the law helps bicyclists stay visible and prevents some driver mistakes.

Center yourself (in shared travel lanes)

One of the biggest mental shifts I had to make when I first started riding on streets was minding where in the lane I was riding. The best place for me to be is in the middle of lane By doing that, I stay out of the door zone and out of all of the sand, gravel, branches, animals (gross but true) and trash that collect on the right-hand side of the lane. Riding in the middle of the lane also generally affords me at least three feet of space when drivers pass me. If the driver is going to have to cross the double-yellow line to pass, then they usually move even farther over to give me more space. Finally, riding in the middle of the lane provides me with the time and space I need to react to something happening in front of me.

Get familiar with your bike

Get to know how your bike looks, sounds, and feels when it’s working right, so that you’ll know when something seems off. Before I set out, I check my bike using the ABC Quick Check method: check that your tires have air, your brakes are working and not too worn down, and that your chain is clean, oiled, and moving smoothly. I also double check to make sure my phone and lights are charged, just in case. Finally, I inspect my helmet and grab my lock.

So there you have it, the easy steps I take to feel more confident riding in traffic! Choosing a great route, riding as a PAL, maintaining my space on the road and making sure my bike is in working order help make my commute the best part of my day.

But sometimes I’ll find myself in a situation I don’t like. When this happens, I take a deep breath, stay calm and rely on my skills and experience to manage through. If you’d like to refine some of your skills and feel more confident on the road, join me at a City Cycling class or one of our Community Rides. Our instructors will teach and reinforce some of these skills so you can find your biking bliss and ride happier during your commute.

* Stay tuned for my answer to the first most frequent question: “Why don’t bicyclists stop at stop signs?”

Support the 2017 Youth Bike Summit!

WABA is committed to building the capacity of our communities to advocate for themselves.  The Youth Bike Summit helps our community of youth to find their voice to speak up for their needs now, and develop their skills for a lifetime of civic betterment.

This year, the National Youth Bike Summit will be held in Crystal City October 6-8.  The Youth Bike Summit is a three-day conference geared toward youth, bikes, education, advocacy, and leadership. People from across disciplines, backgrounds, and ages gather to learn, share, network, and explore how bicycling can be a catalyst for positive social change.

The Youth Bike Summit will feature keynote speakers, hands-on workshops, panel presentations, and other opportunities for youth and adults to exchange ideas about what biking can mean for children, teens, families, schools, communities, and our planet.  This national event will also feature a dynamic and thought-provoking visioning session where youth and adults can articulate, share, and develop new ideas to bring back to their local communities.  By creating a space where voices of all bicyclists can be heard, the Youth Bike Summit fosters an inclusive national dialogue that address the issues, rights, and concerns of all bicyclists.

Learn more about how to attend or volunteer here:


Women & Bicycles Demystifies Cogs, Chains, Cassettes

“So what happens when you hit a hill and you’re still in a high gear?”

“You say swear words!” yells one woman.

“Yes!  And what else?”

Shifting Gears–a Women & Bicycles workshop put on by Proteus Bicycles in College Park–is all about the what else. Led by owner Laurie Lemieux, the workshop put the emphasis on asking questions, finding answers, and helping one another with a part of bicycling that’s as intimidating as it is necessary.

Most bicyclists are eventually going to have to change the gears on a bike. Nevertheless, many bicyclists don’t for fear of getting it wrong, messing it up, or breaking something. Shifting gears, to the novice cyclist, looks and feels complicated, comes with lots of odd noises and jarring motions, and as often as not, has opposite results from what they intended.

Want to learn about future Women & Bicycles events and rides?  Yes!

So we set out to tackle the greasy, clanky challenge. At the start of the workshop, we learned that shifting helps us keep better control of our bicycles, which makes us more confident cyclists. Here’s a little of what we learned:

The Basics

  • Pedaling feels easier in a small chainring and harder in a big one (chainrings, by the way, are the toothy gears that are attached to the right crank, aka, the thing your pedal is attached to). The correct chainring for you is the one where you can pedal comfortably on the terrain you face–and that’ll differ depending on your strength, fitness, and preference.
  • Because that’s not complicated enough, in the back of the bike pedaling feels easier in a big cog and harder in a little one (cogs are the toothy gears that are attached to the rear wheel; stacked together they’re called a cassette). Just like on chainrings, the correct cog for you is going to change depending on the terrain and your comfort and fitness levels.

Shifter Smarts

  • When you shift gears on your handlebars, the cables get longer or shorter, and the chain moves to a different cog (or chainring).
  • Your right hand controls the rear of your bike. (For both brakes and gears, Right = Rear.)
  • It’s okay to do most of your shifting in the back (with your right hand), especially if you’re new to this whole shifting thing.

Quick Cheats

  • Uphills and headwinds? Oh, geez. Use: small or middle front chain ring + bigger rear cogs.
  • Downhills? Wheeeeee! Use: Large front chainring + a range of rear cogs, while humming a happy tune.
  • Flat roads? Use: small or middle front ring + smaller rear cogs. Go ahead and use that big chainring if you are comfy!

What the heck is cross chaining?

  • Cross chaining means your chain is at an extreme slant from side to side. It can happen on any chain ring, and it means that you might be on your big ring in front and the biggest cog in the back, or son the smallest cog in front and back.
  • Cross chaining limits your shifting options, and puts a lot of strain on the chain (this is not a great idea).
  • If you notice you are cross-chaining, it’s a good indication that you could shift your front derailleur to give yourself access to more gears.

How and when do I shift?

  • When the terrain changes or a wind kicks up, or when pedaling seems harder. Are you going uphill? Facing a sudden headwind? Feeling tired?  That’s a good time to shift.
  • Try to shift before you get to the hill–shifting under pressure is hard on our bikes, and shifting when you are pushing hard is a leading cause of chains falling off. If you can shift before the hill starts, you win!
  • A great tip- if you are in your front big chain ring and see a big hill coming up, try shifting to your front small chain ring. You may find you have access to more gears on your rear cassette if the hill gets longer or harder than you anticipated!
  • When you shift going towards a hill, ease up on the pedals for a turn or two to lighten the load.
  • On a flat road, if the wind is behind you, or if you are going downhill- shift to harder gears. Downhills + harder gears = free speed!

What’s next?

Did you find this post helpful? Come try out those new gears skills on our next group ride, June 24, when we take on the rolling hills in the Women & Wine ride with Potomac Peddlers Touring Club!


Riding with younger folks

Looking to inspire the next generation of bicyclists? Or just get the next generation of bicyclists to dance class without having to hunt for a parking space?

We’ve got a number of youth and family biking events coming up, check them out!

How to Teach a Youth Learn to Ride Class

May 8, 6:00 PM
WABA Offices.
Have you wanted to teach your PE class or Girl Scout Troop how to ride bikes safely and confidently in the city? Come join members of WABAs education team for a two hour course on what you need to know to teach a group of young people how to ride. We will cover curriculum, common challenges, and provide you with the information you need to succeed.
Join Us

Be a Bike Camp! Counselor

WABA is looking for 2 Camp Counselors and 1 Lead Camp Counselor with a love of riding bikes, experience with youth, and exuberance to spare.
Apply Now

And we’ve got just a few camper spots left in the July sessions of Bike Camp!
July 10-14 and July 17-21
KIPP DC Shaw Campus, 421 P St NW.
Skills, confidence, and the freedom of two wheels. Only two weeks in July still available, register now!

Bike to School Day

May 10
Your school!
It’s time again for the annual Bike To School Day Competition. National Bike to School Day is Wednesday, May 10th.  For the last four years, DDOT and DCPS have sponsored a competition: the school with the highest percentage of students riding to school on that day wins the coveted golden bicycle trophy to proudly display for a year.

Family City Cycling

Riding with kids can be a lot of fun, but it comes with some extra considerations. Join us for a City Cycling class that’s specifically focused on riding with kids! We’ll help you ride more comfortably and confidently without getting melted popsicle goop all over your brake levers. No matter your skill level, you’ll improve your abilities on two (or more) wheels.

First ride in a trailer

Parent Powered Family Bicycling Class

May 7, 9:30 AM
Anacostia Park 1500 Anacostia Dr. SE, Washington, DC

This class is designed for parents carrying kids on a bike or in a trailer.
Register here

learning bike handling skills

Youth Powered Family Bicycling Class

May 27, 9:30 AM
Anacostia Park 1500 Anacostia Dr. SE, Washington, DC

This class is designed for parents riding with kids who are pedaling their own bikes.
Register here

Know Your Jargon: Filtering, Shoaling & Salmoning

Take a moment to stop and think about the last time you rode your bicycle in the region. Okay, during that ride, how many times were you filtered, shoaled, or salmoned? Do you know which of these is legal to do?

In a WABA City Cycling class, you will learn about filtering, shoaling and bike-salmoning. More importantly, you will learn bike handling tips and tricks to leave you feeling more confident, competent and comfortable, no matter if you’re riding on the beautiful recently extended Anacostia River Trail or on a hectic and busy downtown street like Florida Ave. The City Cycling classes are 3 hours long and tons of fun. In the beginning you meet all of the participants and share why you’re at the class and what you want to get out of it. Then, you get to choose between the “fundamentals” group or the “confidence” group. Both groups learn a lot and get the chance to practice new skills before going out on a ride. No matter which group you choose, you’ll leave more confident and capable on your bike. People who are new to our classes are strongly encouraged to choose the fundamentals group.


Each City Cycling class is taught by League Cycling Instructors, certified through the League of American Bicyclists. City cycling classes are offered throughout the region on most weekends in the spring. You can click here to view the entire list of classes being offered. All you need to bring is a bicycle and a helmet, oh and snacks and water.

If your bike is a Capital Bikeshare bike, great! WABA has a partnership with Capital Bikeshare so you won’t be charged any usage fees while using the bike for the class.

City cycling classes are supported and funded by local government agencies: Montgomery County Department of Transportation, DC Department of Transportation, Arlington County and Alexandria County.

Want to learn about future City Cycling classes?  Yes!

Happy riding!

The Alexandria Bike Campus takes a big step forward

December is not the ideal time for manual labor. Nonetheless, more than a dozen volunteers and representatives from partner organizations braved the cold and the wind to help WABA take the first steps toward installing the Alexandria Bike Campus.

WABA and the National Park Service (NPS) agreed to the proposed facility in 2015, and we successfully raised funds last spring to make it a reality. Final design and compliance approval took a bit longer than expected, but just before Thanksgiving, we got the final go-ahead.

Unfortunately, because of the low temperatures, actually painting the Bike Campus onto the pavement wasn’t possible. Instead, we spent the morning on “demolition” to get the site ready for the spring. We removed 74 concrete parking stops, pulled nearly 150 pieces of rebar from the ground, swept up and bagged all the debris, and patched the holes to prevent surface damage over the winter.

Best of all, we had a blast! Please sign up here to stay up to date as the project moves forward.

You can see a selection of pictures from the day here:

‘Tis the season…to add more lights

Riding a bike around Washington, DC can be a bit intimidating, for sure. But, if you keep your eyes up and take in some of the sites, it can also be awe inspiring. WABA wants to inspire you during this dark and cold season by riding around downtown DC and take in some of the more impressive light displays on the Lighting the Way community ride.

lighting the way

Unlike some of our big signature rides WABA community rides are usually shorter weeknight events, sort of the bike equivalent of taking a stroll. Generally a dozen or two riders will ride 4 – 6 miles at a conversational mosey. No one gets left behind, no matter their skill level, and we stop a few times to discuss different riding scenarios and take in some beautiful sights one can only enjoy while riding a bike.

So clear your calendar next Wednesday, December 14th and join us. The ride will begin at 7th and Indiana Ave NW, by the Archives Metro station (map). We will depart shortly after 6:30 p.m. In addition to taking in some scenic lights, we will also be giving them away! Thanks to the DC Bike Ambassadors, we have a number of bike lights to give away to to riders we see along the route that don’t have any lights on their bike.

Finally, since the highly anticipated WABA Member Holiday Party is the same night, after the ride ends near City Center DC, a group of people will continue on to Boundary Stone, to arrive around 8:30 p.m.