March Sister Cyclist, Blanka Bracic

Blanka Bracic is riyoko's March Sister Cyclist. She is 'making Calgary a more liveable and humane place by improving the walking and biking experience'. She is a transportation engineer that works with the City of Calgary, and she is a well-spoken advocate for alternative transportation. As with all of Riyoko's Sister Cyclists, she is truly inspiring. 

Tell us a little about yourself.

I love colour, city life and being outside. And sweets.  

Can you tell us a little about your job?

I manage a group of planners and engineers that plan bicycle projects like cycle tracks, bike lanes and routes on quiet neighbourhood streets. I'm transitioning to another job in which I'll manage planners and engineers that work on pedestrian strategies, community traffic improvements and commuter travel options. I'm trained as a civil engineer and started working on pedestrian and bicycle planning in the Transportation Planning business unit at The City of Calgary ten years ago. 

What got you interested in the focus on alternative transportation infrastructure?

I'm fascinated by cities and sustainable urban living. Walking, cycling, and public transit provide opportunities to interact with others and our surroundings. I like the metaphor of joining with strangers for a short time to ride bikes for a block, take the LRT two stops, or walk a pathway. You might never see them again, but you shared a time with a common purpose.

Tell us a little about your bike.

It's a step-through city bike - mountain bike hybrid. I bought it in 2007 or so, before there was much of a selection for city bikes in Calgary. It's now my year-round transportation machine. It's got fenders, a coatguard, a folding side basket on the rear and leafy decorations on the handlebars. I'm using studded tires for the first time this winter and lament the lack of snow!

What started you biking?

I started biking to get a better understanding of the bike route projects I was managing at work. I was afraid to ride on the roads at first, but I've become a confident rider. I keep biking because it's fast for short inner-city trips, it's healthy and it's fun.

What do you like best about travelling in your city?

I like that every trip shows me something different. The weather is different. It could be sunny, cloudy, snowing or dark because it's evening. I like that the air feels different on my face at different times of the day and in different seasons. WhenI bike on the river pathways, the riverside view is different. The water could be flowing quickly, frozen solid, or carrying ice floes. 

Of all the cities that you've traveled, which one(s) have you liked traveling through the most and why?

I prefer travelling in cities where there are many choices and biking is easy, of course. I visited and biked around Rotterdam and Copenhagen two summers ago. I liked travelling in those cities because the train is easy to use and convenient to the city centre. Space has also been retrofitted into the streets for everyday transportation bike riding. I also liked the solidarity of biking with many other people in street clothes. However, I like Calgary for its potential. It's already got fantastic riverside pathways that I've not seen anywhere else in Europe, Canada, or the U. S. We've got a sunny climate. We've got a pioneering attitude. And we're about to open a downtown network of separated bike lanes for a one-year pilot period. I'm confident the network will change the downtown's transportation picture. 

Do you have a favourite riyoko piece? (and if so, what do you wear with it)?

I'm crazy about the Pink Floral Lace Tights I bought at the New Craft Coalition Show last summer. I even wore them with a purple fancy dress for the Bike Prom!

Tell us a trick or tip you have for (1) cycling (2) traveling

1. You can.

2. There is always a way to take it along on your bike.

What is your philosophy?

Let your passion out.


February Sister Cyclists, Kim & Kayley from Commit to Commute

Sister Cyclist is back! This month, Kim and Kayley from Commit to Commute are featured. Kim and Kayley  decided to begin riding 365 about a year ago, and then this past winter they decided to blog about it. It is an informative, honest and refreshing read about their inaugural winter cycling season experiences. I took the opportunity to ask them a few questions about their take on their journey so far this winter, and a couple other questions I was curious about. 

How and why did you decide to start Commit to Commute?

We started Commit to Commute as a personal challenge and commitment to ride our bikes to work all year round. We are winter cycling rookies and as such, have experienced a giant learning curve over the last four months. We wanted to share our experiences with family, coworkers, and friends and that grew into documenting our adventures in a blog and on Twitter. We have met many amazing and knowledgable people in the bike community through this process and have applied many of their tips to our commutes. We hope to break down some of the perceived barriers and actual winter biking barriers through our first winter commuting by bike and encourage others to give it a try.

Tell us a little about your bikes

Kim: The bike I'm riding this winter is a Trek 820. I got it off Kijiji for $60. It looks like the first mountain bike ever made and it weighs a tonne. I have a studded tire on the front to help propel me through the variety of winter road conditions we have in Calgary.

Kayley: My winter bike is a regular joe commuter bike. 21 speed. V brakes. One bell. No whistles. It's fun to ride and has been extremely good to me so far. It's needed a few overhauls since I bought it as it's been through the 2013 flood, two seasons of summer commuting, and half a season of winter commuting. It's never let me down.

What started you biking?

Kim: I started biking to work for exercise, but soon I developed a love for exploring the city and getting from home to a variety of locations without using my car.

Kayley: I've always been into biking in some form or another. I started out biking when I was young as a sense of freedom, moved onto road biking to impress my boyfriend at the time, and then started commuting because you can never really get enough bike time in. I also hated going to the gym, so I found this was another way to be outside, have fun, and get exercise at the same time

Do you remember the first time, as an adult, getting back on your bike?

Kim: I've always ridden for exercise and for fun, but I started combining both of those factors into my ride to work about three years ago.

Kayley: I imagine I put my bike away when I was officially allowed to drive as a teenager, but it didn't take long for me to get back on the bike. When I moved to Vancouver, I brought my childhood bike with me and used it occasionally to get around. However, I was too scared to get my bike stolen there, so I didn't ride a lot. When I moved back to Calgary from Vancouver, I was frustrated with how long my car ride was taking, so I figured one day I would test out biking instead. It was rough! I got lost; I could barely bike up some hills, and the route I took was pretty scary. Persistence got the best of me though, and I kept trying (on the scary route) until one day, Kim reminded me of the Calgary bike pathway map. I adjusted my route, and then I finally started to enjoy it. Since then, I haven't looked back.

Tell us a trick or tip you have for cycling

Kim: I have a shoe collection and a few pairs of pants at the office. It's easier to outfit plan and means I have less to pack for my commute.

Kayley: Have a bike kit at work and one at home that both include: bike cleaner, cloth, toothbrush/ dish brush, chain lube, bike tools, and a bike pump. I find it's much more fun to clean a bike with other people around around, and the system of having one bike kit at work, and one at home has kept my bike in much better condition than it would be otherwise.

What do you like best about travelling in your city?

Kim: I love experiencing the changes in the weather, especially in the winter. I've never experienced the seasons change in such a visceral way. I like the direction Calgary is going with the introduction of the cycle track network. It's going to make travelling safer and more accessible to a broader range of cyclists.

Kayley: My partner and I purchased matching commuter bikes two years ago in the hopes to be less dependent on our vehicles. We have such a great time travelling the city and exploring different neighbourhoods. Some days, we head into nice communities to look at houses, others we go to My Favourite Ice-Cream Shoppe, or bike around the reservoir and watch the sunset.

Why cycling over other modes of transport?

Kim: It's fun! That is, by far, my number one reason. It's also just as fast or faster for me to get to work on my bike compared to driving or taking transit.

Kayley: I have endless options when it comes to getting to work. I own a car, I really value our transit system in YYC, and I also have a commuter bike. However, my favourite option happens to be by bike (if you haven't guessed already!) There are so many things that I enjoy about biking - the buffer between work and home life, the fresh air, experiencing weather and seasons, how fast it is, meeting new people, and it's a bit of exercise all wrapped into that. 

At this point in the season, what is your top motivation for cycling in the winter? Any drawbacks?

Kim: My top motivation for cycling to work in the winter is to demonstrate that it is a viable mode of transportation - and it also keeps me in shape! I look forward to seeing other cyclists and exchanging smiles and nods. It's like we have the best-kept secret for commuting. It's fun and fast! Drawbacks have o be navigating through slippery residential streets.

Kayley: I really don't want to break my routine. It's become such huge part of my day that it feels wrong to break that. Each day is different in it's own way. There are days when I feel so tired after work that I think about leaving my bike behind, but I never have. Even if I get on my bike and have a slow ride, it re-engergizes me and gives me time to collect my thoughts. It's hard to describe the friendship that you develop with your bike and the communities you ride through. I think winter can be tough, but luckily we have had a really nice winter for my first go at it. I have to adjust my route slightly every day in the winter, and at first, I found this extremely intimidating, but now I'm getting used to it. 

After this winter is over, will you continue to ride 365?

Kim: Yes, absolutely. Winter cycling is challenging, but the pay-off is confidence that you can transfer to cycling all year round. I'm already looking forward to next winter!

Kayley: Absolutely! Now that I've almost done it for one full year, I couldn't imagine my commute any other way.

Do you have a favourite riyoko piece? What do you wear it with?

Kim & Kayley: We both have the Bamboo Fleece Tights. They are perfect for winter cycling. The length & fit of them are great. We wear ours with running shoes, wool socks, a couple top layers including a down vest, and we are set for commuting. They also take us from bike life to life-life seamlessly.

What is your philosophy?

Kim: As far as commuting goes: people need to get around the city whether they bike, walk, take transit or drive. At the end of the day, we all have places to go, and it's important that we can get there safely. We all need to be respectful and look out for one another.

Kayley: Even on the worst day commuting by bike, it's still probably better than the best day commuting by car.




June Sister Cyclist, Amy Weik

June's Sister Cyclist is Amy Weik. We were introduced to Amy through BFF Bikes, one of the wonderful shops that riyoko collaborates with in the U.S. I asked Vanessa Buccella, one of the co-owners of BFF Bikes, to tell me a little more about Amy:

"Well when I got into bike racing, and Amy was there already kicking ass and taking names, I immediately wanted to be her friend. She was one of a few people who helped bring cyclocross to Chicagoland by founding the Chicago Cross Cup and now she rocks it with The Bonebell, all while maintaining a completely eco-friendly lifestyle. She goes for MONTHS without having to throw away any actual garbage, she is a conscious consumer, obsessive recycler and composter.  She's ridiculously smart and into cars that go Vroom! Of course I have a friend crush on her!"

And now, Amy Weik: 

Tell us a little about yourself.

I'm a witty, energetic, and forward-thinking gal! I've lived in the U.S. Midwest most of my life, and while I enjoy traveling the world, Chicago is my home. Some of my joys include trying new restaurants, reading books, discussing fast cars, science and philosophical topics - and generally thinking outside the box.

A good deal of my time is spent in two communities close to my heart: with my church and in the cycling community. At church I participate in a weekly Bible study and volunteer regularly. And I'm always on my bike - commuting to my job in the loop, going on pleasure rides, hitting the trails, and occasionally racing!

Protecting the environment is one of my largest passions. I'm constantly looking for ways to streamline my footprint and do my part to make the world a better place. My goal is to one day turn this passion for the environment into a career. In the meantime I've started a blog on green burial called Green Your Death which will be launched soon! 

What started you biking?

My parents were big into bicycle touring so naturally I have been on two wheels since as early as one could ride.  My dad towed me (and my sister) in a bike trailer on several centuries, including the popular Apple Cider Century that they helped launch through their bike club.  For the last several years I have been part of a Chicagoland-based off-road cycling advocacy group, The Bonebell.  We help organize and advertise opportunities to ride and race off-roads, like Women's Dirt Days.

My first bike ride ever made it into the local newspaper. Safety did not come first in the 70s!

My sister, mom, and I at the Apple Cider Century 1978. The good 'ol days! 

Tell us a little about your bike.

Being a bike person, naturally I have several... and I've been blessed to ride my all-time favorite bike almost daily for the last 10 years.  It's a 2003 Bianchi Volpe that I purchased from my local bike shop, Boulevard Bikes.  This versatile steel steed has been used for racing cyclocross, touring, and daily commuting. A great bike can be like a best friend and it is no exception.  I also have some other bikes used for tooling around town, getting rad, slaying trails, and racing.

Chicagoland Women's Dirt Days is a great opportunity to ride off-roads with fellow dirtbags!

What do you like best about travelling in your city?

Chicago is such a bike-friendly city.  Although it's flat there are miles and miles of bike lanes including the exponential addition of protected lanes. And the skyline views can't be beat.  However, my true joy is getting out of the city to hit the singletrack wherever I can find it. I love harmonizing with nature and enjoying the ride.

What is your favorite riyoko piece (and what do you wear with it)?

I have a clothing-crush on my neon green Riyoko Riding Hoodie.  It's super stylish and snappy-looking both on and off the bike.  I purchased it from BFF Bikes (a fantastic women-specific Chicago bike shop) along with some snazzy 3/4 pink tights and a black shirtband that is super handy for the ladies who like to maintain some mystery while riding, if you know what I mean.  Wink wink.

Tell us a trick or tip you have for cycling/ traveling.

Being a daily bike commuter and pro-level bag packer, I am all about packing cubes.  They keep everything neat and orderly in your bag and if you do it right, you won't have wrinkly clothes or bruised fruit when you arrive at your final destination.  But the bigger tip is to never buy anything that requires ironing!

What is your philosophy?


May Sister Cyclist, Barbara Pietzykowski

Barbara Pietzykowski has been one of riyoko's wonderful models for the last two seasons. She is an avid traveller, an engaged citizen, and she tells it like it is. Her energy and attitude bring life to the riyoko photoshoots every time. Can't wait for the next photoshoot! And although, it's May, she just got back from a trip to Iceland in March, so just a warning, this post mentions *snow*.


Tell us a little about yourself.

I like to learn, explore and go on adventures.

Tell us about your bike.

It's about as basic a bike as you can get. My dad built it for me. It's a little fixie.

What started you biking. 

When I was five, my mom and I spent the summer before my sister was born biking to the swimming pool for our lessons. I was in kid lessons, and she was in prenatal ones. We also biked to the library to read books. I remember the heat emanating from the pavement up to and onto my fingertips like hot wax as I held onto the handlebars with one hand and dangled my other arm down by my side as we rode. 

What do you like best about travelling in your city?

Calgary is quite flat, and the pathway network is amazing. Also, running into friends while biking is pretty great.

What is your favourite riyoko piece (and what do wear with it)?

I have several pairs of leggings. I have bamboo ones,  solid heather grey ones, and geometric lace ones. I like to layer them for winter adventures.


The bamboo layered with the solid heather grey ones were perfect for a recent hike on an Icelandic glacier.

Tell us a trick or tip you have for cycling or travelling.

Be comfortable, and take up as much space as you need to feel safe.

What is your philosophy?

That it's okay to start over. That you will never get anywhere if you don't try. Find good people to fill your life with. A hard week melts away in good company.

April Sister Cyclist, Erin Sander

Erin Sander is an avid traveler and explorer, and long time urban cyclist.  She and her fiancé, Evan hail from Calgary, AB, but  have been abroad for a couple years working and traveling to various destinations. They are currently living in Mexico City, and we've caught up with her to hear some of her impressions on cycling.


Tell us a little about yourself.

I have been living and working in Mexico City for almost two years. I teach at an international school. I use my background in musical theatre and dance to inspire six year olds to love math.

Tell us about your bike.

My current bike is a used retro cruiser that my fiancé bought me for a birthday gift when we first moved here. It came with a squeaky mushroom-shaped horn that I kept because it's rad. I like the step-through cruiser because I can comfortably wear dresses. 

What started you biking? 

I never really lost my love of biking from childhood. I had a brief timeout from cycling once when my bike was stolen, but now I have a massive motorcycle lock, so I can't be stopped. My fiancé and I even rent bikes whenever we travel because it is a great way to explore. 

What do you like best about travelling in your city?

Every Sunday since 2007, the major thoroughfare, Paseo de la Reforma and other streets downtown are closed to motorized traffic. Cyclists, pedestrians, pets, skaters, and people doing Zumba reclaim the streets. It's like a free weekly festival that attracts more than 10,000 people! Once a month, the event expands to a 30 km route called the Cicloton.

The city is really trying to promote cycling. They have created a bike-share program geared towards improving air quality and reducing rush hour gridlock. There is also a free bike rental service for tourists available in several neighbourhoods.

What is your favourite riyoko piece ( and what do you wear with it)?

I love the Sweater Love Dress so much that i have it in three different colours! I wear it with everything. It's practical and stylish. I need versatile clothing for work, and this piece goes from playground to meeting with the addition of a scarf and a blazer. It's better than a hoodie for biking, yoga, dance, and the gym because it doesn't flop around when I move.

Tell us a trick or tip you have for cycling/ travelling.

Small, cheap tweaks can make a used bike feel brand new. A new seat, some contoured handle grips, and a regular cleaning will encourage you to ride more often.

What is your philosophy?

Inside you there is sublime knowledge. Use it to suspend judgement and diminish negative projection.