Friday, May 30, 2014

Women on Bikes Series: Beth Simon

When I started on my quest for finding women to talk to, I emailed QBP and asked them if I could perhaps interview any women on staff. Beth was one of the first who got back to me and shared her stories-Thank you, Beth!

It's really neat to read about how a bike related business gives incentives to get their employees out on two wheels. Rock on!

When did you first start riding a bike? 
I started riding as a kid.  My parents didn’t have a lot of money for other sports, so we did a lot of walking and biking.  I started commuting in the early 90’s…I lived in Denmark for most of the 90’s and commuting is so engrained in their culture there isn’t really a term for it, like we have over here – it just is.  If that makes sense?

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
When I moved back from Denmark, I had such a culture shock and numerous meltdowns – driving 15 miles would often take nearly 1 hour.  It was such a waste of time that it left me in tears.  Once I figured out routes, I was commuting daily in nearly the same amount of time.  Not only did I feel better, I made a number of new friends (as the commuting community is quite small) and it completely eliminated the need to find time to “work out”.  What I have learned over the years, is that my life is much more in balance both at work and home if I am biking.  While I am biking my mind “flows” with thoughts, creative ideas, planning my day, conversations I need to have, etc…  Working at QBP, I am fortunate to have the extra financial incentive of getting up to $3 to bike.  So, not only do I earn $12 a week in commuter credits I also save about $35 a week on gas and get additional money into a Health Savings Account (a new commuting benefit QBP rolled out).  As a parent, I now want to be a role model for my children and hope they pick up the same passion.

What kind of riding is your favorite? (paved, gravel, mountain) 
I love road riding, as it allows me to slip away into a zone where my mind just flows.  I also love mountain biking as well.  I am by no means a great mountain biker and I am very safe, but I love how you need to be so present in the moment – always watching the trail, looking ahead to plan your course/route, gearing, etc. 

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride? (If not a mountain biker, how about first commuter ride, paved trail ride, gravel, etc.)
The first time I mountain biked I was actually more aggressive than I usually ride now.  It was on the river bottoms of the Minnesota River and we had just had lots of rain, so the course was extra muddy, extra slippery and so much fun.  I had never been so covered in mud.  I did a few easier log hops and climbs, wound up on my back in the creek with the bike on top of me when my front tire went into a hole and had SO much fun.  I went and bought my own mountain bike the next week.  I love mountain biking now, but I am a very cautious rider—even riding cautiously it is a physical and technical workout.  With two younger kids and a busy lifestyle I do what I can to avoid broken bones.

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
Being too nervous and cautious can be more dangerous. For example, if you are scared riding with traffic and ride too far to the side, cars will run you into the curb or you will run into gutters, etc.  I don’t think I’m a rude rider, but I will confidently take a lane until I can get out of the way quickly for traffic.  So, I guess I try to own my space confidently but also be considerate of drivers and get out of their way when possible.  Mountain biking I push myself physically, but I don’t push myself to a limit that puts me in danger.  Most of the people I ride with are much more technical than me and I don’t try to keep up to their levels unless I feel it is safe.

Do you use clipless pedals? If yes, what are some tips/suggestions for beginners that you would share? If no, are you thinking of trying it out at all? 
Yes, I almost always use clipless.  I would first ask what the reason is for wanting to go clipless in the first place.  I had a couple of older relatives who were going on bike trips and were feeling like they needed to learn how to go clipless for “performance”.  After talking with them, it sounded like the bike shops and trainer had almost been pressuring them to go that route.  The fact was, they weren’t out to break any records and were really just riding leisurely.  I encouraged them just to use flat pedals and not feel pressure to do the other—both were in their mid-late 60’s, so the damage from a fall in clipless outweighed any “performance” they would be getting from them.  Both parties have thanked me many times for that advise—I think there are a lot of bikers/shops that don’t take the individual comfort level of riders into consideration and pushing people into things like clipless pedals is not for everyone.  For beginners…practice clipping out with both feet, over and over.  Always check the screws on your shoes to make sure they are tight…or, when you go to clip out your foot will just keep turning on not release.

If you are a commuter what are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
Now, it is the additional time it takes me to commute.  My commute takes me 1 hour each way—in the car it is about 30 minutes.  With two small children, the additional hour can be tough to work in.  I keep reminding myself that the additional hour of time invested gets me 2 full hours of exercise and it is about the only time I have for myself during the day, so I protect it. 
I have hired a woman who comes in the morning to get my kids ready and off to school as that was THE biggest barrier for me.  It is an additional cost, but if I had to join a gym there would be a cost associated with that and the fact is, I would not be going to the gym for 2 hours a day.
I pack my bag, make my lunch and have EVERYTHING ready the night before, so I can just jump out of bed, into my clothes and onto my bike.  If all my gear is not ready the night before, it is just one more excuse not to ride.  Another trick I learned from a co-worker is to keep my car with a low gas level.  That way I know I have to stop and fill up should I choose to drive. 

If you live where there is a snowy or icy winter, do you still commute? Why or why not? If yes, what do you do to make it more tolerable?
I often just do partial rides in the winter.  Instead of riding 15 miles each way I ride, 6, 8 or 10 depending on the conditions.  I am by nature a cold person, so I have layers, upon layers of clothing…everything is out and ready to go the night before.  I always opt for too many clothes, rather than not enough…nothing is worse than being cold in route.

Have you had a bike biff? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?  Nothing memorable – thankfully!

What do you love about riding your bike? 
The mind flow, the exercise, the community, fresh air, not being in a car…

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Women Involved Series: Jacke Van Woerkom

Photo Credit: Called To Creation
Meet Jacke who started Changing Gears with a Purpose and the mountain bike group Trail Angels.
You can find Trail Angels on Facebook as well!

I love being able to use this blog as a platform for individuals to share more about what they are doing and other projects they are working on. Jacke had some updates coming up with her Life Coaching site that she wanted to share. Here is what Jacke had to say about upcoming changes to her Changing Gears with a Purpose site:

"Changing Gears with Purpose will soon become Courageous Woman's Club For the woman who's ready to kick off her slippers and step into a mental and physical adventure that mirrors her specific design!"

"Dream beyond the magnificent mountain tops and believe in the beauty of your heart's desire that all is achievable." - Sandy Westphal (One of our Courageous Woman's Club Coaches)

Jacke will continue her Life Coaching and coming soon will be workshops designed to climb metaphoric mountains of your life that block the flow of your beautiful spirit.
You will be coached to tell your life's story, learn to identify your gifts, write a Mission Statement, leave a legacy and launch that leader within. At the end of this workshop the woman will then have an opportunity to climb a real mountain of her choice based upon her mental and physical ability. 

Whether you're an athlete, a mom, a single woman, a married woman, a woman who needs direction, an empty-nester, a grandmother, we all carry a story and have a strong desire for adventure and to be heard. These workshops will give you the tools to turn your weaknesses into strengths and fill you with courage!

Now about the woman on the bike....

When did you first start riding a bike?
I was a late bloomer because I was a fearful little girl. However, when a little boy made fun of me at age 8, I grabbed his bike and just started to ride it! Who would’ve known that this was going to be the catalyst to change the lives of women? Biking was to me as it is to most, a childhood toy that allowed you to get places and experience adventure. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with Grave’s Disease in 1992, that biking became my reason to not accept the diagnosis. I would talk daily to our mail lady about my illness and that I didn’t want it to define me; she then asked me to get out my hybrid bicycle from the garage and ride with her. After a few years of participating in community road rides I was then asked to go for a mountain bike ride and was instantly attracted!
Within months I began racing cross-country, but then found my love to be downhill racing!

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
The movie City Slickers has a scene where Jack Palance (Curly) shares with Billy Crystal (Mitch) that life is about your “one thing”. I’m blessed to have discovered that “one thing” early on and found that inspiring others to ride and get out of their comfort zone was much more rewarding than any medal I won from racing. When I ride, I just feel good. I feel amazing being out in the wilderness and every ride gaining more confidence with my skills transfers to my confidence in life. I’m hit with numerous life metaphors I’m out there riding and currently creating workshops for women based upon these.

Photo Credit: Called To Creation
Have you competed in events? If so, what were your reasons for competing?
Yes, I’ve competed in cross-country, downhill, endurance rides and adventure races. I’ve competed to see what I’m really made of.

What would be your favorite competitive biking event?
12 Hour Races and Adventure Races

What kind of riding is your favorite? (paved, gravel, mountain, etc.)

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride? (If not a mountain biker, how about first commuter ride, paved trail ride, gravel, etc.)
I felt courageous, empowered and like this is where I need to be!

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
Face it by breaking it down; what is it that I’m fearful of?  99% of what we worry about never happens!

Do you use clipless pedals? If yes, what are some tips/suggestions for beginners that you would share? If no, are you thinking of trying it out at all?
I do use clipless pedals and highly recommend them. Like all things new, you have to develop new muscle memory by doing it over and over again. Yes, you will probably fall, but you must fall in life in order to learn and get yourself back up and do it again. Ride around in a grassy area practicing taking each foot in and out of the pedal WITHOUT looking at your feet. 

Have you had a bike biff? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?
Oh heck yeah! I reflect back and figure out what happened, so that I don’t just default to saying toxic things about myself. Was I being too complacent and not paying attention? Was my body position not right? Once I determine the cause of the accident, it helps remove the fear. As the saying goes, “Fear of the unknown” but the fear is not unknown when you face it.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I get to the trail head release the day’s worries, ride and be in touch with that little girl, but embrace myself as a woman who loves herself enough to take time to get filled back up, stop, take it all in and be thankful for the strength I have, embrace the uphill knowing the downhill is on its way…. smile and do it again tomorrow.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Self Discovery

I was feeling particularly down. Yesterday had been a painful day for me with my repetitive motion issues with my arm/shoulder and a few other things.
I was battling myself and my own person by questioning decisions I made and feeling a lack of confidence.

Memorial Day, was a random Monday off for me and I wasn't sure what I was going to do. Many families spend the day together, doing outdoor activities if the weather is favorable. Travis was working, my friends already had plans, and I would be left to entertain myself. I had the option of doing whatever the heck I wanted to do.

I figured that unless it rained, the paved trail would be a highly trafficked area today, as many people who ride with their kids would choose that over the mountain bike trails. I also figured that the mountain bike trails might be busy as well, due to the beautiful weather and holiday weekend. Well, the only way to find out was to pick one of two options and "just do it."

I wasn't going to go a day without riding, especially with the rain chances in the afternoon.

I waited until about noon, figuring that individuals may be out eating lunch or perhaps having picnics or grill-outs. I pedaled my way over to the trail I'm most familiar with-Iowa Public Television otherwise known as IPT or IPTV.
I wanted to ride the trail by myself. I needed to prove to myself that I could do this, especially if I were going to be out there riding with my girlfriends.
Plus, mountain biking is a huge deal to me. It is something that challenges me to my very core and brings up some of the scarier feelings I have inside. When I mountain bike and come to an incline or a downhill-the feeling in my gut, the adrenaline, and the "Oh crap!" feelings come up full force.
It's me working through my relationship with my bike. Working out the kinks, building trust, and coming to the conclusion that we are good for each other.
The trust you have to have in having the secure knowledge that your bike will do its job. That you know what you are doing, how to sit back, lean forward, pedal, burst, coast, brake, and everything else that comes with riding.
A solo ride is riding by yourself, with no one ahead of you to give out advice, a heads up, or any feedback/encouragement. You are out there, alone, doing your own thing, and trusting yourself and your bike.

I had a great conversation with someone I know at the Co-Op, he told me that it takes awhile before a person fully trusts their bike to do what it's meant to do. He also acknowledged that it's difficult to accept that going faster in some areas is a good thing-because of the whole "trust your bike" thing as well as being sure enough of yourself on your handling skills and confidence.
"We all start out the same."

I told him my secret of sorts, that I'm getting to where I need to go out and try the trail I'm familiar with. I need to do it by myself, I need to prove to myself I can do it. I need to show myself I have what it takes to do it!

So I did.

I rode dabless through IPT but had to put a foot down when I went up Gunnar. I lost traction and spun out, eventually I got myself up the turn and rode the rest of the trail dabless. This time I didn't have Travis to focus on, which usually helped to distract me from wanting to look over the edge. I ignored that damn edge and kept going. I focused on looking ahead, seeing what was coming up. No surprises for me. I made it over the tricky root section and up the steep climb to the top where one could go off and ride the pines. I wasn't sure if I'd ride the pines, but decided that it would be a good thing to do. I didn't ride them hard or fast because I had tears welling up. My heart felt like it wanted to bust open and burst forth...a feeling of elation that I have been so looking forward to feeling!

After the pines I went back down Gunnar, dabless, mastering the curve that has tricked me before and went back through IPT. I stopped after I finished the ride and let myself cry tears of joy. Then I went back and did IPT again, the short section of North 40, and back through IPT. I decided, just in case it rained, I wanted to try Gunnar one more time. I wanted to prove I could ride it dabless, both ways, on a single ride. I accomplished my goal! I was thrilled. I rode through IPT and rode home with a huge weight lifted off my shoulders and a feeling of joy and accomplishment.

My head didn't ache nor did my arm hurt. I'm so happy that I had this day to show myself that I can accomplish more than I think I can.

Moms on Bikes Series: Samantha

Sam is involved with Trek Dirt Series and also Two Wheel View...check 'em out!

How do you transport your child? Seat or Trailer? 
Our son (nearly five) rides most places now. He is on a Spawn Cycle bike (check them out, they are amazing). I still use a Yepp Maxi when we are going further or have to be somewhere on time, but we started with a Burley trailer. I can’t say enough good things about the Yepp! For one thing, it has a very high weight limit so it will last us a long time. Also, it has a quick release so that when I go get groceries solo, I can get more cargo on the bike. Our next family bike will be a full sized cargo with a padded rear rack and handle bars since our son is nearly 5.
For the trailer, I was disappointed to read that they are not intended for use behind a bike before a year old and in fact outlawed before a year in some places (NY). I had to do a lot of reading to figure out what the risks were and what other people were doing. There are options but we ended up attaching the bucket car seat inside and it worked well until my son was supporting himself.

What added precautions do you take when transporting a child? (How do you keep your child safe and what do you avoid?)
We were fortunate to live on paved city bike paths and never needed to go on roads when my son was little. It was part of the reason we lived where we did. 18 months ago we moved to Fernie, BC and other than the usual precautions (helmets and biking on the defensive) we don’t really need to worry about biking as people are very friendly and bike conscious.

What is one thing you would like to see different about bike safety/transport in general that would make you feel safer transporting your child via bicycle?
Designated lanes where possible are wonderful but I think it comes down to education of both drivers and cyclists. We need to respect each other and I’ve been trying to teach my son to understand what it’s like to be a driver around cyclists (especially unpredictable preschoolers!). Defense riding sounds really negative, but to me it just means that we are smaller than cars and harder to spot. I always ride with the assumption that the driver doesn’t see me and I act accordingly.

Have you ever had any close calls while biking with your child? If so, what happened and what was the outcome? Were you fearful to ride with your child again? How did you overcome?
We have a bit of a steep hill to our house and unfortunately my preschooler has no fear of speed and thinks it’s okay to go down with no brakes! I say “be in control” rather than “slow down” because I think it makes him think about his own comfort level. That said, it only took one time of fearing he’d end up in the river before I made him walk most of the hill and telling him that while he might have felt in control, I wasn’t comfortable with it at all!

What were the biggest challenges you faced with biking at different stages of pregnancy?
I didn’t bike when I was pregnant because it was winter and my commute was 20km. My last 6 weeks of pregnancy though all I wanted to do was ride. The only bike that fit my expanded body was my downhill squishy bike so I rode that around the neighborhood. It’s not at all ideal for street riding!!

What products do you recommend as a bike riding mom and why?
Definitely look at  – these are high quality bikes for young kids and they are expanding their product line every year. - whether you want kids up front or in the back, these are amazing.

What are tips/suggestions you have for starting a bike riding routine with your child?
It’s great if you can start early so it’s just a fact of life! It helps when it’s fun (for example riding to get ice cream is a regular activity). I think it’s really challenging if the parents aren’t cyclists as well but it’s never too late to become one! My 70 year old mom just learned to ride at the end of 2012 and last summer was the first time she really got to ride more than a couple of days. My son learned to pedal a bike on Mother’s Day 2013 and was more comfortable than my mom very quickly. He would call down the street “You can do it Nana!” We rode as a family after dinner all summer and it was a great routine. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Women on Bikes Series: Rachel (Scott) Beisel

Rachel is involved with USACycling’s Women’s Club of the Year and Naked Women’s Racing. They have over 100 women on the club with half of them on the race team. They also are big supporters of Ride for Reading as you know and have lots of video/photos for our deliveries.

When did you first start riding a bike?
I rode bikes as a child but only around the neighborhood. I don’t think I’ve ever seen either of my parents ride a bike. Believe it or not I couldn’t ride without training wheels until I was almost 7 years old. Once I was old enough to drive, or when riding bikes “wasn’t cool” for my teenage years, I stopped. I picked up a road bike again when I was 19 thanks to a boyfriend who got me back into it. I kept the bike and ditched the boyfriend. Haven’t stopped riding since. 

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
I think learning new things or accepting new challenges always keeps the bike interesting. Riding is also my escape. While I do yoga every day and that helps too, the bike is truly where I always come back to. So when I first started riding, it was challenging myself to do a metric century, then a full century, then try a triathlon, then bike racing like criteriums, stage racing, and then catting up to elite, then trying cyclocross, then trying a double century, etc. The past two years I’ve been more into mountain biking and I find myself repeating the same pattern as the road. I’ve signed up for the Bailey Hundo and raced a full mountain season last year (until tendonitis had me off the bike) and catting up to a 1.Lately, I’ve enjoyed traveling with my bike and exploring different places. There’s always so much to learn and so many different styles of bike riding that I could do this for the rest of my life and still not have tried everything. 

You mentioned having to deal with tendonitis, what has been the most helpful for you in terms of managing it or dealing with it?

At first I tried to tough it out and that was dumb. I had a huge goal that I had trained all winter and summer for (Lotoja) and it got down to the wire where I was doing more permanent injury to myself and needed to withdrawal. I had cortisone shots, dry needling, PT work, another bike fit, and copious amounts of rest. Still it didn't work. But to be fair my rest was more like 3 days off. I still don't deal with injury all that well but one thing it did teach me is that there is more out there to focus on like reading more books, learning a new skill, or get a jump on your off-season. Cycling is a LIFELONG sport so while a season-long injury seems like an eternity, having a bigger view makes a huge difference. Without the injury I wouldn't have become so hopelessly addicted to hot yoga :)

What kind of riding is your favorite? (paved, gravel, mountain)
Can I have them all? I started as a roadie moved to gravel and then to mountain. Each has their own unique style, language, and culture. I love riding solo on the road and pushing myself greater distances, but on the mountain bike it is just so much fun and challenging for this roadie :) I love riding gravel on the road bike too or taking my mountain bike on the road when it’s a little too snowy and icy here in Colorado. Honestly, if it has two wheels, I’ll likely enjoy it. I’ve also started dabbling in motocross. Add a motor between your legs and ride through the trails and it’s a completely different experience.

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride? (If not a mountain biker, how about first commuter ride, paved trail ride, gravel, etc.)
Yes, I hated it. Absolutely hated it. I think I might have almost been reduced to tears. But then I remember how many times I fell trying to clip into my new road bike or how many times I fell as a kid trying to even learn how to ride a bike. I accepted the challenge and that’s why I made myself sign up for the Rocky Mountain Endurance Series. I won every race I entered (for my age group) and actually wouldn’t have gotten dead last in the pro category. I definitely left bloody but there’s nothing better than having a race going on to distract you from the pure terror I used to feel when gearing up to ride on the trail.

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
I still get a little nervous when I line up for a road race or out there on my mountain bike on a trail I’ve done a bazzilion times. As mentioned above, I sign up for things that put me outside of my comfort zone but still within the fun zone. I have never regretted it to date :) I’ve actually experienced a lot of growth this way and accomplished things I didn’t know possible. 
Do you use clipless pedals? If yes, what are some tips/suggestions for beginners that you would share? If no, are you thinking of trying it out at all?
Yes and what I couldn’t figure out is how to balance first before clipping in. Momentum is your friend. So get forward momentum first, then sit on the saddle and then clip in. Don’t worry if you can’t clip in, you can still pedal without being clipped in. Had I known this, I would have taken far less diggers. That’s probably my problem when I was 7 and still trying to ride without training wheels!

If you are a commuter what are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
I’m lucky to live in a place where I have bike lanes all the way to work. I also have plenty of gear that I’ve accumulated over time to make my commute easier. Planning the night before helps. I usually layout everything and keep a spare pair of shoes at work just in case I forget my non-riding shoes. Also, lights fully charged. I always have a spare headlamp and batteries for my rear just in case. Though I should bring rain gear, I typically don’t because my commute is less than 3 miles each way. But if you know it’s going to rain (or snow in Colorado’s case) always have a protective layer!

Do you still commute even if the weather isn't ideal? Why or why not? If yes, what do you do to make it more tolerable?
 Depends. If it’s very icy, then I will drive or ride the bus. My work provides all of us Eco Passes so riding the bus is free. We also have bike parking inside too so your bike gears won’t freeze up. This winter has been especially tough with negative temperatures but I usually am sweating no matter the temperature, even with a 3 mile commute.

Have you had a bike biff? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?All the time and at least once a year :) Actually, nearly every time I mountain bike I crash. You have to get back on and before you mentally recover, ride the obstacle. I 98% of the time can nail it the second time around. Also, my cycling team has clinics and one of those is with a sports psychologist. I have several friends who’ve suffered some pretty bad crashes and a sports psychologist helped them overcome their fear. 

What do you love about riding your bike?
 Everything mentioned above but here are a few things: camaraderie, the challenge, the freedom, the environmental impact, the reduction in carbon footprint, the friends. A bike has given me so much opportunity. I am in my career path because of a bicycle. I have made some amazing friends because of a bicycle. I am who I am today because of a bicycle. Not that a bicycle defines who I am. It helped me discover the person I am today. It was the catalyst. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Men on Bikes: Eric Sovern

I've known Eric otherwise known as Sov (by many people I know in town) and now by his Surly moniker: Skip Bernet.

You can't miss Eric, his stature wouldn't allow that to happen. (Believe me) I was probably intrigued by his Surly shirts/hats for several years, but was completely unaware as to what I was missing. I was completely unaware of the bike world for several years.

I definitely eyed the Surly bikes when I started researching what I wanted/needed in a bike. I will say that receiving my first Surly was one of my greatest days. Ever. The overall attitude of the company as well as the bikes themselves (I mean, check out the names!) intrigued me. A combination of no-nonsense but nonsensical at the same time. Bikes made to ride. Bikes that don't care about being "flashy" and bikes that are in every sense of the word: Fun.

When did you first start riding a bike and what has kept you riding all these years?
I grew up on a small farm north of Cedar Rapids and I learned to ride on our long driveway. Shortly thereafter, I was bugging my parents to just drop me off in the housing development near my elementary school. I just really wanted to ride around a neighborhood and never really had that opportunity – well, at least not without the danger of being pancaked by an 18-wheeler.
I raced BMX bikes when I was around 10-12. My family started doing RAGBRAI as a family vacation when I was 15. I raced road bikes when I was 18-21. I worked in a handful of bike shops in college and later. And, I was a bike messenger for a while in Minneapolis. Bikes have always been a part of my deal.

What inspired you to get involved with Surly and what do you enjoy about your job?
I started with Surly’s parent company, Quality Bicycle Products, in 2000 or so. I had been working in a bike shop (after teaching social studies for a few years) and wanted a 9-5 job with benefits, because those things are nice. I answered phones and was a sales rep for the whole company for a couple of years and just sort of gravitated over to Surly since the products and personalities involved were neither ordinary nor boring. I liked that a lot.
Now I’m the Customer Service Manager for Surly and I make sure our customers get the information they need to have fun on their bikes. I get to talk to bike shops all over the world, consumers who are excited about riding, and that’s pretty cool.

Out of the events/shows you go to, what would your favorite be?
Every year we have a big bike trade show in Las Vegas. That’s fun because I get to see all the yahoos that fill my weird little industry. But, I wouldn’t say that Vegas is my favorite place to be. Riding a bike out there is pretty sketchy.
I like the events where I get to visit bike shops and go for rides with people. I’ve had the opportunity to do this all over the US and in Japan, England, and a bunch of other places. There’s a connection that people who love bikes all have. It’s immediate and pretty obvious. Bike people are an ok bunch. Riding with people is what we call “sales.” It’s low stress for sure.

What kind of riding is your favorite? (paved, gravel, mountain, etc.)
Man, I like them all really. I don’t much go for road rides anymore. I don’t like fighting with cars. I was hit once in Minneapolis by a guy who was aiming for me. It shakes the confidence a little.
Now, I mostly ride to get places and up in the dirt trails. I love riding with my 6-year-old wherever he wants to go too.

How many bikes do you have and out of those, do you have a favorite?
I have too many bikes. It’s a side-effect of my job and my hobby colliding. It’s also because I usually get bikes in a prototype phase to see if I can break them, so the price is right on those. I’d say I have about a dozen at any one time.
Right now my favorite is my Surly Krampus. It’s a 29” wheeled mountain bike with big big tires – 3” as opposed to the normal 2.1” or so. It makes for a very fun ride. Coming down Fred’s Trail in Van Peenen is probably more fun on the Krampus than it ought to be.

If you are a commuter what are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
I face living on a hill and having a kid. Honestly, I rode more when I lived in Minneapolis. Partly, that was because it’s super flat up there, and the other bit was that I didn’t have a kid to worry about picking up and dropping off places. I can still do that on a bike – we have a cargo bike called the Big Dummy that I can stick him on and carry his bike if I need. Still, at the end of the day I face a decent size hill to get home. I am easily dissuaded from climbing that thing sometimes.
I get past that by realizing that I don’t pay gym membership fees, but that it takes getting off my butt to make sure I keep things that way.

Sage words or advice for those new to commuting or riding a bike in general?
In cold weather, dress to be cold for the first 5-10 minutes of your ride. If you bundle up so that you’re warm when you walk out the door, you’ll be sweating and miserable when you get where you’re going.
Follow the rules of the road. Cars and bikes have a long way to go before we all get along. Until then, I stop at stop signs, signal my turns, and ride like I’m a part of traffic. That’s how I do it. I still don’t get much respect from some drivers, but at least I can say I’m on the moral high ground after they’ve hit me.
Get your bike tuned up at least once a year. We have two great bike shops in Decorah and they both will make sure your bike is safe and in good working order. It really is important.

Have you had a bike biff? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?
I’ve wiped out on my bike a thousand times. Sometimes it was because I was horsing around, sometimes it was just one of those things. Getting hit by that car in Minneapolis was a real tough one. The driver and I exchanged a few words when I thought he’d driven WAY too close to me on a really wide uncongested residential street and he didn’t like something I said. His reaction was to run me down with his car and drive away. I tried to get his license number, but those things are pretty tiny when you’re mid-air. That still haunts me.
What I learned was this, however: There’s really not a way to win an argument with a person in a car. People in cars can have a real sense of anonymity and rage sometimes that I just don’t understand. They say things and act in a way that no person ever would if they were just walking by you on the sidewalk. I’ve tried to work hard on letting go and just trying to let people’s negative actions roll off.
It doesn’t always work.
That said, I’ve had a million more good interactions with cars than bad ones. I rode out to the start of RAGBRAI once and on the loneliest back roads of central Iowa almost every car passed me completely in the other lane with a friendly wave. That was pretty cool.

What do you love about riding your bike?

I like the silence. I like not burning gasoline. I like doing something that gets my parts moving. A friend of mine in Minneapolis likes to say this: Bikes are freedom, get some.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Women on Bikes Series: Beth Pickhard

When did you first start riding a bike?
I began riding when I was a kid. My small hometown is great for biking since many of the streets are low traffic. In college, biking was a quick way to get to class and commuting became a part of my routine. It helps that Madison is bike friendly and my friends and I would walk or bike everywhere.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
First, enjoyment...followed by fitness and saving money. Last year I put in 1,500 commuter miles, about 40 percent of my total miles. Living in Milwaukee, I am close to much of what I need so I rarely use my car. I have a Surly LHT equipped with panniers to carry groceries and anything else I need to transport.

What made you decide on the Surly LHT?
I wanted to start bike touring since I enjoy biking, camping and travel. After I started searching for touring bikes, I settled on the Surly LHT pretty quickly. People seemed to hold on to the bikes for years.

What do you love about your bike?
The LHT is nice for both my bike touring and commuting needs. It can haul my camping gear when I am on tour. When I’m at home, it carries groceries and beer.

Any other bikes in your stable? (so they call it!)
I also have a Trek Lexa road bike and an old Schwinn that is my winter bike. I would like to get a dedicated commuter bike with an internal gear hub that can be my year-round bike.

Have you competed in events? If so, what were your reasons for competing?
My most competitive event was a triathlon in Minnesota. I did it just to see if I could, but probably wouldn’t do another one again. I mostly participate in charity rides.

What are some of your favorite charity rides?

Last year, I did the Door County Century up in the peninsula of Wisconsin and it was beautiful. I am signed up again this year. I have enjoyed a bike ride in my hometown a couple of years, which is sponsored by Tyranena brewery.

What would be your favorite competitive biking event?
There’s an awesome alley cat race called the Riverwest 24, a 24-hour bike race in the Riverwest neighborhood in Milwaukee. It is competitive, but some people participate for fun. The community supports the riders well by handing out bacon, pancakes, etc. and a bunch of the “checkpoints” involve helping out nonprofits in the neighborhood.

Could you tell us more what an "alley cat" race entails?
Alley cat races are often organized by bike messengers who wanted an informal opportunity to race. Riders are given spoke cards instead of bib numbers. There is no route, but checkpoints you must visit instead. The checkpoints may be given out at the start of the race or along the way. Some checkpoints require you to perform a task before you receive points. Past checkpoints at the Riverwest 24 have included face painting, photo shoot, dunk tank and espresso making.

What kind of riding is your favorite? (paved, gravel, mountain, etc.)
I enjoy road riding and riding bike trails, paved or gravel. Riding on trails is nice since you are close to nature.

Do you use clipless pedals? If yes, what are some tips/suggestions for beginners that you would share? If no, are you thinking of trying it out at all?
I’ve found that practicing clipping in and out while you are leaning against a wall is helpful. You don’t have to worry about falling and you can get off the bike and make adjustments to the cleats. Tweak them until they feel comfortable.

If you are a commuter what are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
This was my first winter commuting and I picked a brutal one to get started. Buying studded tires is key and practicing in the snow on weekends helps. My bike handling skills improved this past winter. Wearing proper clothing like wool helps regulate temperature and a nice pair of gloves or bar mitts keep your hands toasty. You kind of get used to -10 when you face it relentlessly.

Do you commute even if the weather isn’t ideal? Why or why not? If yes, what do you do to make it more tolerable?
I don’t have parking at work so it encourages me to bike instead of driving and paying for parking/walking from a parking spot. Biking is much more convenient and biking vs. driving/walking take the same amount of time. When the weather is bad, I adapt. I invested in a quality rain jacket and plan to get rain pants soon.

What would be the top 5 suggestions/tips that you would give someone new to commuting?
1. Find a route along as many low traffic/bike lane lined streets as possible and take bike paths when available. You may have to travel further on bike-friendly routes, but you will enjoy the ride much more.
2. It’s ok to start slowly. Try commuting once a week to start out.
3. Being a commuter doesn’t mean you have to ride every day. You may choose not to ride when it’s raining or below a certain temperature.
4. Figure out what kind of bike and gear you need or use stuff you already have.
5. Commuting also includes trips to meet up with a friend for coffee or go to the farmer’s market. Think of using your bike as an alternative to a car in these situations.

What would be the top 5 gear/accessory suggestions you would give someone new to commuting?
1. A lot of people ask me about what kind of bike they should buy. Think about the distance you will need to travel and your riding preferences like step over vs. traditional frame and upright ride vs. more “racey.” Know what you want before you step foot in a bike shop.
2. Find a way to carry your gear. Panniers and a rack are great, but so are backpacks and messenger bags.
3. Some people commute in spandex. Others (like me) wear their work clothes. Decide which camp you fall into based on mileage/preference and dress accordingly.
4. Whatever you choose to wear, buy synthetic fabrics instead of cotton. You will sweat less and be able to regulate your temperature better.
5. Depending on where you live, get a jacket that fits the weather conditions including rain and cold. Cycling specific is always nice.

Have you had a bike biff? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?
I wiped out pretty hard on a patch of gravel coming down a hill during an organized ride. It was my first 50 mile ride as well as my first time falling clipped in and the adrenaline pushed me through. I am more cautious of gravel now.

What do you love about riding your bike?
Sometimes riding my bike is the best part of my day. It is a way to see more of the city I live in and connect with my neighbors. Biking helps me relieve stress and anxiety. I have become a much happier person from commuting year round!

How do you feel your city does with encouraging bike riding? What could they do better?
Milwaukee could use more bike lanes, especially protected bike lanes. The only one I can think of is a raised lane, but there is parking on the right side of the raised area. I’m always worried I will get doored there. We have some nice bike trails and more in development. My women's riding club, The Bella Donnas, does great work getting women on bikes. Some of the women who come to our group are more timid about riding in the city. Our members coach each other on group riding communication and bike handling, which makes everyone feel more confident about riding together.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Women on Bikes Series: Teresa Edgar

photo credit: Colin Wilson
I found Teresa while doing random searches for women involved with bike riding. I've tried hard to find various riding practices, but I must say I really do love reading about women who mountain bike. Perhaps it's because Decorah has some nice mountain bike trails, or maybe it's because so many women feel they can't. Either way, it's something I aim to get better at, and perhaps I hope to soak up some inspiration myself!

Check Teresa contributes toMTB4her (website) and MTB4Her (Facebook)

When did you first start riding a bike?
I first learned how to ride a bike when I was 3 or 4. It was a hand-me-down from my sister that I rode until I outgrew it and my parents replaced it.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
I've just always enjoyed it. There's a great meme out there of a young girl with a huge grin and the caption says "What riding a bike feels like, every single time!". It's true, it's exactly how I feel every single time! 

What kind of riding is your favorite? 
Mountain biking is definitely my favourite, although I enjoy all types of riding. I just love being in the forest, away from the sounds of the city, hearing nothing but the sound of the dirt underneath my tires (and squealing brakes if it's a wet day... lol).

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride? (If not a mountain biker, how about first commuter ride, paved trail ride, gravel, etc.)
I fell in love with mountain biking on my first ride! We borrowed my friend's parents' mountain bikes and went to nearby trail network. By the end we were covered in mud from head to toe and had big smiles on our faces. We had the best time! I was hooked.

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
At first, some of the gnarlier terrain made me nervous and to this day I'm not a fan of wet bridge work. I've found that repetition was key to getting over the nervousness. The more I rode and pushed myself, the more I realized it really wasn't a big deal.

Do you use clipless pedals? If yes, what are some tips/suggestions for beginners that you would share? If no, are you thinking of trying it out at all?
photo credit: Colin Wilson
It depends on which bike. My XC and road bikes are clipless, my DH and cruiser bikes have flat pedals. I recommend setting the clips on the pedals as loose as you can so you can bail easier until you're used to unclipping, and sticking to easier trails for the first couple of rides. It really doesn't take long to master them.

If you are a commuter what are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
I was more of a bike commuter when I lived in Vancouver, my route to work there was really nice and I enjoyed the 16km ride to and from the office. Having showers at work was a huge bonus. The only challenges that come to mind were remembering to pack a towel and all of my clothes for work so I did my best to pack everything the night before. I had a folding hairdryer and travel sized shampoo and conditioner that lived in my pannier so at least I usually remembered those!

I live so close to work here in Courtenay that I can't really call it a commute.

If you live where there is a snowy or icy winter, do you still commute? Why or why not? If yes, what do you do to make it more tolerable?
Our Winters are rain, rain, and more rain. I've got the rain gear however, I've never commuted in the snow so I can't really comment on that.

Have you had a bike biff? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?
I've been lucky and have never been injured while riding my bike, although I did have a good one falling off the monkey bars. Long story that involved a lot of physiotherapy on my ankle, and an intervention by my physiotherapist and my doctor to convince me to buy a road bike (they wanted me to stop mountain biking for a while since they were afraid of re-injury). The road bike ended up being the one thing that helped me keep my sanity and I discovered that I actually missed riding on the road. 

Long term injuries are hard, lots of ups and downs. Focusing on the improvements, not putting a time limit on recovery, and living in the moment rather than dwelling on where I thought I should be in my recovery made things much easier. 

What do you love about riding your bike?
Lots of things come to mind... Seeing things that you normally don't see while in a car, being out in the fresh air, the extra energy it gives you, the mood boosting endorphins, and just the overall fun factor!

What is the biggest thing you would like women to know about mountain biking?
I'd like women to know that mountain biking isn't all about massive jumps and riding fast. So many of my friends thought that's what I did until we convince them to give it a try. It really is a sport that has something for everyone.

What inspires you to inspire others to try mountain biking?
I wish I had a profound message or something, but I really just like seeing the joy it brings people. There's just something about riding your bike in the forest...

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

What would you like to know?

I was reflecting on my ride this morning and started thinking about my blog. I love the fact that I can share so many wonderful stories and experiences that other people have with bikes! Everyone is truly inspiring in their own way and I've enjoyed reading every single interview. Thank you all who have participated and thank you to those who will participate in the future and don't know it yet!

I originally started this blog to highlight some of my personal reflections on my bike rides that I didn't feel were worth posting elsewhere. The nitty, gritty, and non-awesome aspects of rides that do take place such as not feeling it, being physically/mentally/emotionally out of it, frustrations over not doing what I deemed "well" and all that stuff. The struggles one has when they grow with something, the frustrations of not accomplishing what one hoped, and the triumphs of overcoming.

Well, I've not posted a whole heck of a lot.

I do have some concepts and ideas of future posts and what I would like to incorporate into a series. Biking with your partner/husband/significant other, bike accidents and overcoming the mental/emotional trauma from it, and various other things.

What I would like to do is open up the forum so to say, and let YOU ask me questions or give me a topic to write about. Is there something about me or what I do that you'd like to ask a question about or is there something you'd like to hear my opinion on?

You can comment here or email me at with ideas/questions and I will feature them at least once a week!

Women Involved: Katie Harris

Photo Credit: Camrin Dengel
A bit (more) about me:
I am a recent college graduate from Humboldt State University. Currently, I’m the transportation policy intern at Rails to Trails Conservancy.
I recently completed a cross-country bike trip with my best friend and professional photographer, Camrin Dengel. You can see a glimpse into our trip, and find a link to her website: From Great Plains to Great Lakes: Experiencing Minnesota by Bike

Before working with RTC, I worked with Friends of Pathways, a bike/ped advocacy organization in my hometown of Jackson, Wyo. You can find information on FOP here.

My interest in bikes and trails comes from a desire to create healthy communities- ecologically, socially and from a public health perspective.

In five words how would you describe your cross-country bike trip?
Eye-opening, inspiring, challenging, formative.

What was your most favorite part of your trip?
My favorite part of the trip was the routine. Life is stripped down to its most basic parts on a long journey like the one we took. Where will we get food and water? Where will we sleep that night? How do we get there? Eating, sleeping and riding dominated our lives for two and a half months, and the simplicity of that was a breath of fresh air.

Did you learn anything while on your trip?
I learned a TON while I was on my trip. The most important lesson for me was that there is no reason to hold back. There are a billion reasons why we could have bailed on this trip- my riding partner and I both had offers for real jobs, we were both leaving romantic partners at home, we had never done anything of this magnitude before, etc. There will always be reasons to step down from a challenge, but life is really boring when you hold back.

What does your internship at Rails-to-Trails involve?
My internship involves working with the research, policy, and advocacy teams within Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. My role with the advocacy team is to identify and build partnerships to strengthen the active transportation movement from a national level. My role with the policy team is slightly different- one of the responsibilities of Congress is to reauthorize a transportation bill, and we work to ensure that bicycle and pedestrian projects continue to receive funding through this process.

Photo Credit: Camrin Dengal
What do you enjoy most about Rails-to-Trails?
I enjoy seeing how much support there is from the American public for trails in this country. The outpouring of support for places to bike and walk is utterly amazing, and makes me hopeful for the future.

Did you have a specific job with FOP? 
My position at FOP was Pathways Ambassador. My primary responsibility was being an active presence on the trails- doing patrols and helping with basic maintenance (I towed a trailer behind my bike with a shovel, clippers, brooms, etc.) and passing out maps and bells to trail users. I also acted as the community liaison between pathway users and city government. In addition, I helped organize and supervise volunteer groups, plan and teach bike safety workshops to elementary school children, and ran a Safe Routes to School mapping project with middle school kids.

What was your favorite part about being involved with FOP?
I loved contributing to my community. It was great to be riding all day, but I truly loved the interactions that I had with locals and visitors alike. People use the pathway system for recreation and transportation and it is an absolute asset to our community. It took a lot of work from the community to build these trails, but now that they are there, there is a lot of community building that happens on the trails! There is much to be said for that.

How important is advocacy to you?
Advocacy is hugely important. Pedestrians and bike riders need a voice, and often their voice is not heard in the holler of everyone else.

What would you suggest to someone wanting to get involved with advocacy?
I would suggest that anyone that wants to get involved with advocacy start by not being afraid to ask questions. Find a local group, introduce yourself, and say you want to get involved. Don’t be intimidated if you don’t know anything! That is what they are there for! Interested citizens are exactly what local groups are looking for!