Tips & Tricks: Damage Control and Revenge of the Tiny Neon Cyclist

There’s no perfectly safe way to ride a bicycle. Even when you’re done contending with the obvious cars, pedestrians and fellow cyclists, there’s nothing like trolley tracks to derail you or an unleashed dogs to throw you off, literally. (Canine hit and runs are not an uncommon occurrence according to Bicycling‘s Bob Mionske. So, whoof!) You can only do so much you can do to protect yourself but if you’re looking for an extra coat of armor here are suggestions from San Francisco’s Tiny Neon Cyclist.

The Amber Daytime Running Light by Dinotte 

Colliding with a car changes everything and begs the question: why didn’t they see me? In case of a next time, the most obvious protection seems like shining a bright light at less attentive drivers. The problem with regular bike headlights, no matter how bright (or thousands of lumens), is that white light is imperceptible in sunlight. This amber colored light by Dinotte is the same shade as a turn signal or Road Work light, making it visible in the daytime.

See for yourself:

The settings include low, medium, high and several different strobes. (The strobe’s additional benefit is that in can be used to modulate tourists crossing the pedestrian side of the Golden Gate Bridge, who move out of your way because they think your a bike cop.) Rechargeable AA’s and a battery charger purchased separately at stores like Radio Shack make this an economical, eco-friendly choice as well. With two interchangeable sets of battery packs this light will last on a high setting even on long rides.

For those of you with fears of getting hit from behind, the buzz surrounding Dinnote 140R Taillight is getting attention on bike forums worldwide from owners who swear by it for daytime and nighttime use, in spite of the hefty price tag (129.00 USD). Just how bright is it? The following video is pretty compelling.

Why No One Looks Hot in Neon Yellow and Why Everyone Is Wearing It 

Neon colored clothing hasn’t been fashionable since 1980-what (which is coincidentally the only other time I wore spandex), so the trend of fluorescent yellow cycling jackets wasn’t an automatic choice. What were these cyclists in neon yellow thinking? That cars could see them and fashion be damned.

It is absolutely impossible to blend in neon yellow. Whether in the bright sunlight on an ocean highway, in the dark shade of a woodsy trail, even among the colorful traffic in the city streets, you just can’t miss the neon yellow cyclist. These “high visibility” jackets come with sleek styling and flattering fits from makers like Pearl Izumi and Sugoi for both men and women.

Truthfully, any kind of colorful clothing makes you more visible to motorists on any given day and is useful on any part of your body.

Ultimately no matter how luminous and bright you look you can’t account for people not paying attention. That’s why cars regularly collide with each other. You have right to fear because of the difference between you and a  four thousand pound metal fortress crushing against your bare fragile body. Cycling while preoccupied by fear is not only unpleasant its distraction is dangerous. A solid set of bike handling skills can promote confidence and prepare you for anything on the road.

Why You’re Never Too Cool For School 

No one is above a little basic bike skills training, not only for conquering the unknown but for breaking bad habits we’ve picked up like colds from other cyclists. Lori Lee Lown, founder of the Velo Girls, and her team teach a series of bike workshops, geared towards women but open to men, that focus on everything from beginners ‘Individual Bike Handling Skills’ to more advanced ‘Racing Skills and Tactics’.

(Photos courtesy of 

Alternately for members of REI, free basic bike clinics are offered to members during spring and summer months. There is certainly other coaching available through other cycling clubs and bike shops throughout the country. Ask the store where you bought your bike or Google a search for “bike classes” in your town. There’s much to be learned from publications like Bicycling Magazine and VeloNews which offer tips, articles and product recommendations to keep new and experienced cyclists at the forefront of the sport with advise from experts and professional cyclists.



Confidence is key. If finding bike couture in Day-Glo or attaching a “warning light” to your bike brings brings your calm to a level where you can enjoy the ride that may be the armory you need. “Whatever helps you sleep at night” becomes “Whatever helps you bike all day” to the cyclist, whether it’s protective gear or an extra water bottle: the goal is to ride on and ride strong. In avoiding accidents experts and experienced cyclists agree on the importance of making eye contact with drivers to make sure they’re paying attention and to humanize you beyond another road obstacle. Sometimes being bright makes no difference to the inattentive driver on the phone or enthusiastic dog. Cycling clothes are frequently made to look sleek in black, but what’s the good if you’re better looking if you can’t be seen.

My “revenge” as the Tiny Neon Cyclist was against my fear of cars, trolley tracks and dogs that brought about my unceremonious “involuntary dismounts” but which created a new and improved Tiny Neon Cyclist, riding with a very, very brightly lit confidence.

Tips & Tricks: The Hat Trick – Why Helmets Do More Than Good Head

I like to imagine that a cyclist riding without a helmet must be some deluded philanthropist on a kamikaze mission to donate their organs to all the deeply distressed, diseased and dying individuals in need that day. It’s more likely a high grade, bike douche arrogance that makes them feel immortal from the kinds of serious accidents no cyclist is immune from. We thank you for your organ donations nonetheless.



With its powerful protection against head injury, the helmet can protect against damage to the brain, regardless of its size and contribution to society. It controls hair, ventilates the scalp and makes the speedier set more aerodynamic. The helmet can also protect your bike.

Our Marin cycling routes have been built around a San Francisco Ferry Building start point due to its accessibility via public transport, such as CaltrainBART and Muni (click to learn more about each). The loops are completed via ferry transport back to Fisherman’s Wharf or the Ferry Building. 

Make no mistake, bikes aren’t handled like wheelchairs, strollers or even luggage. The reality of bikes being leaned up against one another, especially heavy ones, can damage derailers, chains, spokes and wheels. At popular destinations like Saulsalito and Tiburon, fatigued by the sheer number of bikes, it’s hard to blame the onboard staff for not being able to care for us as individuals. The majority are rentals, whose condition are insignificant, hence don’t raise the eyebrows of handlers. However, making a case for your most prized possession might touch the heart of a fellow bike lover who will help find a place to protect it (Thank you Jim!) but don’t count on it.


The first step in protection is switching down to the lowest gear ratio to protect your rear derailer. Clasp the helmet straps around the top tube and arrange the helmet head on the same side as the derailers so it’s gently supported by the frame and front derailer but does not put pressure on the chain.

This position will protect the bike by:

1) Prevent scratching to the frame by creating a bubble of space while it is being parked. The sheer inconvenience of the movement of the helmet will create a wider space as it is being handled.



2) When there are bike racks available (hallelujah!) the helmet encourages a wider space between yours and the next parking spot. Selfish? Yes. Worth it? Totally. 


3) When your bike is stacked against another bike, a significant enough space is created by the helmet to protect the crucial elements of the bike. When movement from the vehicle causes the bikes to vibrate or knock against each other the helmets is designed to absorb the shock instead of the bike. 


4) Likewise the helmet allows the bike to be parked against unbalanced surfaces where the helmet can provide a safe distance between the objects and most important bike parts. 


The right strategy for you ultimately depends on your frustration tolerance. A bent derailer might cost $20 to fix, which when done frequently over time can become costly and inconvenient. You may learn to hate cycling tourists and their ten ton comfort bikes as part of cultivating your inner bike douche. However, using a limited edition, $175 helmet that is a sentimental gift from your sweetheart may not be worth any of it. (Especially if it’s pink!)

We’ve started venturing beyond the North Bay (and will SOON begin logging those new trails) but still have a special place in our hearts for crossing the Golden Gate and completing those loops by ferry that allow us to bike all the way home without packing the bikes in the car – which may not even be an option for some.  


Whether you get your kicks saving on gas or the environment, taking the day off from commuting, making your ride accessible to more of your friends, skipping the hassle of finding parking or my favorite, sipping on a petite glass of Chardonnay taking in the ferry ride with the wind in my hair; the commuter trail combined with the hat trick to protect your bike may be enough to put your mind at ease. 


Our Stories: My Rise and Fall as a Biker

I remember seeing the head of the black Beetle nip into the middle of the street, not at the corner, not while signaling, but while I was passing in the bike lane.  I heard my own shriek, the squeal of the tires, the crunching of the bike against the car and the thud of my own weight hitting the ground. Then for a brief moment: silence.

As I began to hear the worried sounds of inquiry around me, familiar and not, for a brief moment I contemplated whether I should just get right up and stop being a baby. Then the fact that a car had just hit me registered and I felt like I never wanted to get up, like I wanted to pass out into a sound sleep and wake up somewhere better, anywhere but lying face down in the middle of the street hit by a car.

But reality is as impatient as traffic blocked by a human barricade. “Am I OK?” I couldn’t breath. I felt terrified. I truthfully had no idea whether my head, torso or limbs were in tact – everything hurt. I had no idea how I’d fallen or landed just that I had: my eyes were open for part and closed right around the time I knew I wasn’t going to make it staying on my bike – the blood and guts part of the movie. Pass. If I had lost consciousness it would have been an indication of a more serious injury, but without this consequence I wish I had no memory of the crash.

Without the memory I wouldn’t constantly relive the experience asking myself if I could have somehow avoided the car, which I’ve been reassured tenfold by my riding partner, who gave a statement to the police, that there was absolutely nothing I could do. If the crash was inevitable what does this mean about cycling and how will I ever get on a bicycle again?

I admit it’s the first thing I thought of when the EMT’s put the neck brace on me, then strapped me to the board and put me in the ambulance. I felt unsettled as I rattled off an embarrassingly lengthy medical history to the doctors who prodded and pulled at me, while nurses stripped me naked in a room full of people. To preserve the integrity of the neck brace I had to urinate horizontal into a bedpan, like I was wetting the bed. Try unlearning that tradition. The whole time I was unsettled by thoughts not so much of “Why did this happen to me?” but “This happened to me, so is this going to happen to me again?” with fear and a loss of hope.

Biking has brought so much joy to my life. It’s not just good exercise but it has helped me considerably in shedding some difficult to lose pounds that wouldn’t budge with other regular exercise and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love the results. After losing my business and finding out my mother had a brain tumor my long rides through Marin and soothing ferry rides home were immensely therapeutic and swelled me with pride compared to my first fumbling attempt in heels only 5 months before. Being outdoors, feeling so connected to nature was so new and enlightening for a city girl. There’s never been a time in my life where I spent so much of my days around tall trees, green grass, unobstructed sky and calm water. To be writing and photographing this blog reignited a talent I thought would die as I left my career as a fashion editor. My fiance and I bonded over the shared time we spent together in this new healthy weekend lifestyle. But was it worth this?

My neck and head hurt like the hangover from a night of a dozen mojitos AND a bottle of champagne. And in what felt like the chokehold from one of Lady Gaga’s concert headpieces I sensed soreness in my neck like the night I was rear-ended by a drunk driver and later found I had whiplash. When Morphine doesn’t make you feel better, you worry. My fiancé stood looking down at me and all I could do was stare back up at him. I wasn’t sure if I had succeeded in getting away unscathed because of the obviously unbroken bones. The lingering question in my heart was whether I was if I was ever going to be safe if I ever climbed on top of another bicycle.  I saw the urgency with which the medical professionals treated me. What were they expecting, I wondered?

Demo riding my dream bike in the same protective gear that saved me from bloody scrapes and scratches.

I wanted to tell him to find a way to cancel my $3000 dream road bike I’d gone to incredible lengths to get my hands on. I was afraid to tell him I never wanted to get on a bicycle in my life ever again. So I didn’t speak. I just looked up at him and let the tears roll down the sides of my face while the thoughts circled the drain inside my mind.

My self and skin (aside from my face) were unscathed as a result of this protective clothing that remained in tact - a North Face jacket, Specialized pants, Fox gloves and a Giro helmet.

Anything that involves spending six hours in an emergency room sucks (unless it’s where you work. Bless your hearts, I saw the other patients screaming there – whoah!) I have insulation from riding gloves, full-length riding pants, a long sleeve coat and a GIRO helmet, I would bet my life on, to thank for suffering no serious injuries other than strain to my neck, head pain and some bruising and scratches to my face (that aren’t too ugly). Whether you are religious or not, believe me that God blesses bikers with helmets on. Those riding without helmets (or as I call them “organ donors”) might as well tape their organ donor cards to their foreheads – dingbats!


(The helmet AFTER the head-first landing onto the street – minor scratches! Talk about a lifesaver. However, according to Bicycling Magazine June 2010’s article ‘Post-Crash Checklist’ you should replace your helmet after one hit unless you own a multi-impact helmet. “Even if there’s no visible damage to the shell the foam layer’s ability to protect your noggin from future hits has been compromised.” Although you can check whether your helmet has a replacement policy.

As for my relationship with cars and bikes I would be lying if I told you we’re all good now that I know I’m in the clear . . . this time. This time was my first fall.  Recognizing that the incident was not my fault and I had no way of preventing it means coming to the conclusion that the fall was inevitable and unlikely to be my last. The bike accident in your future is inevitable too. It would seem that throwing the unpredictability of bad drivers, unforeseen obstacles, lousy road work, even other overly aggressive cyclists into the mix, and like riding horses, ride for long enough and as probability will have it you will fall off your bike. The difference between a few minor scratches you might just peddle away from and a Christopher Reeves like fate (Duh (a.) helmet), riding less aggressively with greater care and caution could save you from a grizzlier fate. After all, just how much of a hurry are you really in? In which case six hours at the hospital will certainly slow you down.

Another cyclist approaching the scene of my accident.

I sincerely hope my relationship with my bike, love of biking and ability to ride will not change from this experience. As soon as my bike and I are medically able, I plan to get back on the horse. (I also call my bike Horsey. And Horsey ripped the side-view mirror off the Beetle that hit me because Horsey fights back. Not to worry the owner will paying for her damages, mine and my medical expenses. Let that be a lesson to you drivers.) Only when I ride I will do so with a newfound appreciation that in a face-off between car and bike, car always wins. Cars, like teenage girls, behave erratically, irrationally and more often than not are unremorseful for their actions. Car still wins. So in my newly formed rapport with this beast I will not just look out for oncoming traffic but keep an eye out for those “girls behaving badly” too. I’ll let you know how it feels getting back on the road.

Trail: THE JAWS OF LIFE – Tiburon

Distance: from San Francisco Ferry Building (see Golden Gateway Trail): 22.21 miles, from Marin Crossroads: 7.78 miles
Difficulty: Enough to give you saddle sores but not enough to break a tourist on a comfort bike.
Download your route sheet here: Directions – The Jaws of Life
FOR A MORE DETAILED LOOK click here for the full Geoped Map provided by
From Marin Crossroads: 
There are two routes to Tiburon: Strawberry & The Quick Fix.  This is decision-time, do you have time to go the scenic route?  Or are you cutting it close to the last ferry?  If you have the time, take the Strawberry route! It is worth the time!
SCENIC ROUTE: Strawberry Fields of Heaven
If you make the decision to go the scenic route through Strawberry, you will make a right off of the bike path and follow Route 8 over a bridge and onto Hamilton Drive.
All you have to do in this section is stay on Hamilton Drive until it dead ends at Redwood Highway Frontage Rd, a road running parallel to US-101, at the stop sign pictured below. At the stop sign, make a right and head towards the water.
This path will wind you once again under a US-101 bridge and then back in the opposite direction.  Just watch the signs for Route 8 as you go along the road.
Emerging from the underpass you will reach a strip of gas stations Keep following the road here until you see the 7-Eleven.
Pay attention for the Route 8 sign, this will be at the corner of Seminary Drive.
Make a right on Seminary Drive and you have entered the town of Strawberry!
Though you will keep following Seminary Drive, this gets a bit confusing at the first intersection because instead of going straight, you will make a right.
Once you are into Strawberry, you will see marsh lands to your right, and then just up the road, you will see the bay with the US-101 bridge off in the distance.
After passing the Golden Gate Baptist Seminary on the left (yep, there is actually a seminary on Seminary Road, go figure) you will then wind around and find yourself with San Francisco in the distant foreground and Sausalito marina to your right.
This is one of the most beautiful parts of the ride to Tiburon, so take it in and take plenty of pictures!  As you can see, we did!
The Undertow Hill

Following the road will lead you to a hill that looks deceptively short and easy. It encourages you to charge right up only to suck you in. Fatigue at this point in the ride only makes this worse. However the lack of traffic make it manageable if you need to take it slow and you have a nice downhill ahead of you.

Once you have crested this hill, there will be a fork in the road, head to the left, this will take you towards tennis courts and Strawberry drive.

After a few more hills you will reach a point where the road becomes one lane in either direction.  Make sure to stay to the right and go in the same direction as the car traffic.

The next decision comes toward the end of Strawberry Drive, right after the road comes back together.  At that point, you will see a very inviting SuperFast downhill!

If you choose to go this way, be warned, you will have to apply your brakes quite soon after you reach the bottom because the path you take around the small peninsula is very narrow and tends to have joggers and dog walkers along it.

f you do choose SuperFast Downhill, just keep following the path until you get to the parking lot, there just head toward the 76 gas station and make a right on Greenwood Cove Drive.


If you chose to forego SuperFast downhill and stick with Strawberry Drive, you will go down Strawberry Drive and then intersect Tiburon Boulevard at the stop light.

At Tiburon Boulevard, make a right and enjoy the downhill section of this trip. At the next light, make a right at the 76 gas station onto Greenwood Cove Drive.

I’ll finish the route on the other side of Option 2.

OPTION 2: The Quick Fix 

If you are running a little short on time and you choose to stay on Route 5, then about half a mile from the Route 8 intersection you will come up on East Blithedale Avenue and a stop light.


The signs for the bike paths are a bit confusing, but just enter the road in the bike lane and follow East Blithedale Boulevard.

Be careful along this route as there are a few different intersections where cars will either be exiting the road onto a highway ramp, or just exiting the highway onto the road.  Keep following the road as it goes over US-101.  Once you have passed all of the intersections around the US-101 overpass, the rest of the ride is less dicey.

Keep straight on Tiburon Boulevard and you will intersect Strawberry Drive at a light.  At the next light, make a right at the 76 gas station (Greenwood Cove Drive), the bike path sign signals Route 10 to the right, and the rest of the route is the same for everyone (pictured above).

Options Merge:

Following Greenwood Cove Drive you will encounter another uphill area before gliding down to the end of the court.

To the left side of the court is an entryway for a path over to a parking lot.

This lot leads to Route 17 and the Tiburon bike path.  When you first enter the bike path to the right of the parking lot, you’ll see the path fork to the left and to the right.  If you head to the right, you better have a mountain bike! This is a gravel path that leads along the shoreline.

Your better option is to veer to the left and up the next hill.  Once up the hill you will see the bike path and, more than likely, a whole lot of pedestrians! Just take it easy through this section and if you have a bell, use it!

Follow this nice and easy path all along the shoreline.  Take in the beautiful scenery, take some pictures and just enjoy how much fun bike riding in this area can be!


The path will cross a road at a stoplight, so you’ll have to watch for cars coming around the bend.  Cross the road and the path continues for a little long, or if you’re confident enough, go ahead and get back onto Tiburon Boulevard, the rest of us will be joining you soon.

If you stayed on the path, just keep going along the path.  Eventually, you’ll make it to another intersection where you’ll have to make sure to stay to the right for the short split and just head down the path.


Just a bit down the way the path will end and you’ll have to merge back on to Tiburon Boulevard.  Once you’re back on the road, it’s just a straight shot to the end of this run. No worries, as a bike lane is provided the whole way to the ferry terminal.


From the Ferry Terminal at the round-a-bout, you have a great view of Angel Island, San Francisco and the marina.  Once you reach the ferry terminal, park your bike and enjoy one of the local restaurants before the ferry ride back to Pier 41.

Our favorite restaurant is Sam’s Anchor Cafe.  Here, there is both indoor and outdoor seating.  Be warned though, on a nice day in the spring and summer, the wait can be an hour and a half for a table outside, while you may be able to walk right in to one inside.  Just be aware of how much time you have before your ferry arrives.


On nice days, you’re likely to run into a long line of tourists and cyclists.  Beware that the Tiburon Ferry stacks bikes one top of one another because there is only one bike rack!! We call this the bike massacre!  It also doesn’t help that the ferries from Tiburon stop in Sausalito as well most of the time.  Even more bikes will be piled up in that mess.  Just put your gears into 1-1 in an attempt to protect your derailers. For more on how to fend for your bike read about “The Hat Trick“.

Make sure you take plenty of pictures from Tiburon.  You’ll pass by Angel Island, Sausalito, the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz.


Fisherman’s Wharf

Once you make it back to Pier 41 at Fisherman’s Warf, you have a lot of restaurants to choose from.  We enjoying going to the outdoor stalls for dungeness crab.  When this becomes our dinner of choice, we go to Nick’s Lighthouse.

These guys have their fresh, live crab out at the steaming stall on the right.


It can be prepared either just steamed, or if you ask nicely at the counter, they also can prepare it in garlic butter, or our favorite, the spicy garlic butter!!!

Make sure to try not only the crab, but the crab chowder or lobster bisque as well!! Both are just amazing on a cold day.  You can get them in either a cup or a Boudin Bread Bowl.  They also serve beer and wine outside, you can see my Anchor Steam in the brown bag.  Nick’s is a great place and the service is awesome!

You might ask, “Hey, what did you do with your bikes?”  That’s a good question! The closest bike racks are down the street in front of the Boudin Bakery.  That’s a bit of a hike when you’re hungry! So what we did to ensure that our bikes were not only safe, but visible, is to lock them to the anchoring chains around the parking lot across the street.

Using the U-Lock and cables, just run the sides of the U-Lock through the chain links and your cables after connecting your cables to your rear wheel, frame and front wheel.  This is as secure as the bikes can get.

Just think of dinner as your reward for making it through the jaws of life!