MOSCOW: I have run after many Russian girls, but never a babushka…not until I saw Nina last year rollerblading in a bright outfit in the center of Moscow. I didn’t catch her as she was too fast. I saw her again a few weeks ago on a bike at Red Square. She said she was born into a big family (1 of 9 children I believe) just weeks after WWII ended. She turned 70 on June 6. She is one of three children still alive. One lives near Moscow, the other in Ukraine. A career factory worker, Nina said her relatives thinks she is crazy for biking and rollerblading, but she doesn’t see anything wrong with it.
UlAN-UDE, EAST SIBERIA: Zoya, 28, was riding what looked like a mountain bike in the center of Ulan-Ude just as snow started to fall on this day in late April. Zoya said she heads the Ulan-Ude bicycling community that she created three years ago. It all started when she began biking by herself around the city. She soon became friends with other bikers and they began to organize day rides outside of town. Thereafter, she decided to set up the community with one of the goals being to get drivers and the government to accept that bicyclists "have the right to exist." Drivers still tend to block bike riders and there are no official places to park bicycles, she said. Zoya said biking has become more popular in the city in the last few years - justifying in her view the parking spots. Her Ulan-Ude bicycling community social page has nearly 2,000 followers now. Zoya said the local government has set aside 150,000 rubles to create bicycle parking spots around Ulan-Ude this summer. Zoya said her dream is to take a long ride through Central and East Asia. When I asked if she would ride back to Ulan-Ude from Asia, she said no as "Russian roads are dangerous."
IRKUTSK, EAST SIBERIA: The weather in Irkutsk on a recent weekday couldn't have been any grayer...and Sasha, 31, couldn't have been any more colorfully dressed as she walked through the city. With her maroon skirt, green leggings, purple socks, pinkish scarf and light green sunglasses, this Linux systems administrator stood out from the crowd. She said she was on her way to meet friends to 'celebrate' receiving her new passport post a divorce. I asked her about trends/developments in Irkutsk. Sasha said she has noticed more bicyclists around Irkutsk and plans to join them. She also said she noticed more so-called 'Yogis,' or or people leading a more healthy lifestyle. Her comments have confirmed the same trends in nearly every city I visited. Sasha said she is also interested in tattoos, has half her back covered in them and hopes to add more. She also dreams of visiting Chile.