Monday, June 30, 2014

Women on Bikes Series: Wendy Engelberg

Wendy's Specialized Epic 29r
Project Engelbling
Photography by Cosmo Works
Wendy is the brains behind Girlz Gone Riding (GGR). Girlz Gone Riding is a female-based group of riders located in the Los Angeles and Ventura County areas.

You can find more information on Girlz Gone Riding with these links:
Website: Girlz Gone Riding

When did you first start riding a bike?: 2005
Were you the driving force in getting yourself into bike riding, or did you have a friend introduce you?
In 2005 I was going through a very long, dragged out divorce and needed something to take my mind off things. I had always wanted to try mountain biking, so I went out and purchased a hard tail and participated in the CORBA Fat Tire Fest.
What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?:
Addicted to it…It made me feel like I could conquer anything and it took me away for hours
Have you competed in events? If so, what were your reasons for competing?:Yes..try new genres of cycling and something new…have raced in XC, DH, DS and endurance events
What would be your favorite competitive biking event?: Sea Otter

Tell us about the Sea Otter event: 

Sea Otter has got to be the most fun cycling event ever! Something for every type of rider and every genre of cycling. The best riders in the world come to compete and also enjoy the festival. Lots of women's activities and great sales on products.
What kind of riding is your favorite? (paved, gravel, mountain, etc.) XC: Cross Country
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.) 
O yes, will never forget. I had never mountain biked before. I didn’t like it at first, it was very, very challenging and I didn’t have the endurance.

How did you build up your endurance?
I just biked and biked and biked and biked.....
If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
Pure determination to conquer it
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 rode clipless until 7 months ago when I crashed in Mammoth. Due to reconstructive Knee surgery, I must wear platforms for 6 months.
If you have never tried clipless, practice starting and stopping on fire roads with the clips as loose as possible. Once you are used to it, you will feel one with the bike AND have an additional 20% power in your pedal stroke.
Wendy's Specialized Epic 29r
Project Engelbling
Photography by Cosmo Works

Have you had a bike biff? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?

A crash?? Many many many many many…..this is the sport I love…there are consequences just like anything else…I think if you don’t crash once in a while, you are not pushing yourself.
What do you love about riding your bike? 
I love every aspect cycling has to offer. Social, mental, fitness and the feeling of empowerment

Friday, June 27, 2014

Women on Bikes Series: Amy Cassidy

I'm 52 and a single (divorced) mom of 2: Kelly 19 and Jack 18. I have 2 dogs, Ripley (8 year old Golden Retriever) and Kona (1 year old Border Collie who I rescued from my brother) I’ve lived in the Vail Valley / Eagle area since 1984 and like to ski, skate ski, swim, mountain bike, road bike and trail run. 

When did you first start riding a bike?
I started riding a bike when I was 4. My first memory was when my family lived in Tucson, AZ and our backyard was the desert. My older brothers and sisters found an abandoned bike in the desert and took me to a park, put me on the bike on the top of a hill and pushed me down. I don’t recall ever having training wheels.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?Mountain biking is a huge release for me – whatever stress I’m feeling I can usually overcome with a ride. I’m lucky enough to live in Eagle, CO where we have over 100 miles of singletrack, all of which are accessible right from my driveway.
What kind of riding is your favorite? (paved, gravel, mountain) Mountain biking is my first love. I also just bought a new road bike and hope to do some century and longer rides this summer. My first is the MS 150 in June.
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 do. It was so fun. The downhill is like skiing, picking your line and just trying to go for it. (That sounds braver than I am!)
If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?I try to look ahead and not focus on the obstacle in front of me. I try to remember to breathe. Many of the friends I ride with are better riders than I am so I try to just do what they do. I also have no problem walking when things get too steep or technical!
When you mountain bike with a few friends, do you frequently go with men or women? I've had many individuals say that for some women, it's easier to learn from other women vs. men. Any thoughts on that?
I would say I ride equally with men and women. Both are super fun. I ride with people of all ages - my son and daughter, for example, The Cycle Effect girls and 35-60 year olds. 
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. I keep them pretty loose so unclipping usually isn’t a problem.
If you are a commuter what are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?My job requires me to attend a lot of meetings up and down I-70 so commuting is not always an option. Whenever possible, I have a townie bike I ride to work and around Eagle.  
Have you had a bike biff? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?I’ve had more bike biffs than I can count! It’s rare when I don’t have road rash or bruises somewhere on my body. The older I get, the longer it takes to recover. I try not to focus on falling but it happens. I also fall often trail running so maybe I’m just uncoordinated?
What do you love about riding your bike?I love the challenge of climbing hills and going downhill. I love the exercise, I love getting dirty. I like the adrenaline rush that comes with mountain biking, especially night riding. I love being out in nature and riding with my friends. Some of my best conversations have happened on bike rides. I’m not much of a group rider, I like to get out with a couple friends, or by myself, and just go. I’ll set out for a quick 45-minute ride and a few hours later I’m still riding.
What would be one fun thing you'd like to share about yourself with everyone?
I did a super cool open water swim in St. Croix with a couple girlfriends for my 50th birthday. We had to swim during a tropical storm so it was brutal. But the rum drinks after were delicious.

You are involved with The Cycle Effect, how did you hear about them?
I got involved with The Cycle Effect when they put on their first big event, the Haymaker Races, in Eagle. I do the marketing and events for the Town of Eagle, so I had the opportunity to work with Brett Donelson and his team. I love the concept of what The Cycle Effect does to empower high school aged young women through biking, mentoring and education. The girls are awesome and willing to try anything. They inspire me.
--Check out their website: The Cycle Effect and Facebook page: The Cycle Effect--
What do you do at The Cycle Effect?I am the Development Director so it’s my job to raise money. I love telling The Cycle Effect story. People get really enthused when they understand what we’re doing and the effect we’re having on these girls’ lives. I’ve yet to meet someone who hasn’t wanted to help us in some way and that’s amazing.

How has working at The Cycle Effect changed your life?
I’ve only been working for The Cycle Effect for a couple months and the changes in my life have been profound. Working out with the girls, working with people who believe so strongly in the impact we’re having, it’s inspiring. I’ve always enjoyed coaching and sharing my love for sports and fitness with kids. Helping provide an outlet for these girls is life changing for me and hopefully for them. 
What would you like individuals to know about The Cycle Effect and what they do?
The Cycle Effect eliminates any barriers to getting girls interested in mountain biking: cost, access to bikes, access to coaching, access to trails and knowing where to go, access to bike clothes, shoes, etc. We also provide mentoring and education, we’re changing not just one girls’ life, but the trajectory of her life, plus her kids lives, etc. etc. by showing them what they can accomplish. 

What would you consider your greatest accomplishment while working for The Cycle Effect?
We recently partnered with a local restaurant group (Dionysus Hospitality) to make The Cycle Effect the main focus of their charitable giving. While this group is very generous and gives to many organizations, they have decided to make The Cycle Effect their main focus and have gotten all staff members involved in raising money for our charity. John Shipp, the owner, believes so strongly in what we’re doing, he has agreed to form an amazing partnership to raise money and awareness about The Cycle Effect. Hearing him speak so passionately to his management team about The Cycle Effect was very moving. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Specialized Andorra Pro and Comp Short Review

Travis brought me a pair of Specialized Andorra Pro shorts to try as I've currently been wearing the Andorra Comp short(s). I have a pair of teal and a pair of black-they are comfortable and their fit can be adjusted somewhat by the velcro strips. However, there is a reason my new shorts are called “Pro” and they have some options that are not available on the Comp shorts. Both shorts are great for mountain biking in terms of comfort and functionality.

I read some reviews on the Comp shorts, not having worn any other mtb shorts yet and discovered that people were unhappy or displeased over the fact they did not come with a removable chamois. You can purchase a chamois liner short or what I’ve done is simply wear a pair of padded shorts. I’ve not had an issue with my padded short option, but I have discovered today that a simple liner with a chamois is really nice. It’s more breathable and light so in terms of feeling layered, it’s a lot less obvious.

The Andorra Pro shorts come with a zipper and 2 snap button closure where the Comp shorts are closed with two snaps and velcro. The Pro shorts also have two zippered vents that you can open (on the legs) as well as a zipper in the back of the short (above your butt) where you could pocket a GU pack or cash. The removable liner can be snapped in which makes it really simple to remove and use with other shorts. The pockets on the Pro shorts are zippered so you have a lot more confidence in knowing that anything you put in your shorts will undoubtedly stay there! (I’m a fan of zippers, if you can’t tell-my pockets on the Comp shorts go un-used due to this.)

One option that the Comp shorts have is side pockets on the legs which have a flap you can velcro shut. I’d opt to use those side pockets to hold items like GU or other snacks vs. a phone or money. (I like security and velcro just doesn’t seem secure enough for more important items.)

The fabric of the baggy short is very durable (so it seems) and washes well. I’m a beginner in terms of mountain biking and obviously take falls here and there. It’s fun to have an option of wearing a short color other than black. I had gotten dirt and grass stain on my teal shorts and it washed out easily. The darker purple is a fun color that can easily camouflage any dirt mishaps.

My biggest shout out to how forgiving the shorts are can be found in this article: Rites of Passage
The teal shorts I wore the worst day I could probably ever wear them, I questioned whether or not I could get the potential stain out. I used free and clear laundry soap and cold water-it completely came out almost instantly!

Granted, next time I start my period I hope to be more prepared next time (and not wear a light colored short) but if you have an accident-you should be able to hide all traces with a good wash. Fantastic!

Both of the shorts from Specialized can be ordered at Decorah Bicycles. The Pro short is around $135.00, but take into consideration you are getting added security with zippers vs. only velcro. You also have a removable chamois liner that you can use with other baggy mtb shorts, so you’re getting two pieces for the price of one. The Comp short will retail around $90.00 and is a great product choice as well, tho it does not come with a chamois liner, so you will want to wear padded shorts under for comfort.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Women on Bikes Series: Kelly Erbach

When did you first start riding a bike?
I learned to ride with training wheels as a kid (then one day, trying to be cool in front of my babysitter, I proclaimed, "I don't need these things!” discarded said helper wheels and took off down the driveway). I didn't start riding seriously until 2006 when I moved to Flagstaff, AZ to work as a nurse.

(I had, however, attempted a couple mountain bike rides while I was a student at Luther in Decorah.
I had no idea what I was doing and was pretty terrified at various points.)

In Flagstaff, mountain biking is the big thing and felt like I had better join the culture. I moseyed on down to the local bike shop and walked away with a sweet new hardtail, which I did not know how to ride off road.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
Fitness, comradery, and being outside. The fast downhills keep me coming back as well. The uphills...not so much.

What kind of riding is your favorite? (paved, gravel, mountain)               
Easily mountain biking, although there is something to be said about a nice countryside road ride. My husband tricked me into getting a road bike a couple years ago and it has been a mostly positive experience...except the occasional bug clouds. No one likes a sports bra full of sweaty, dead bugs. And the cars. I am scared of cars.

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 the same way on my first handful of mountain bike rides. It was a lot of, "Holy crap, there are rocks everywhere! How do I ride over all the rocks without killing myself?!" I ended up riding alone to practice a few times in Flagstaff before I would even consider going with anyone else. There was a lot of blood and bruises involved. Then I agreed to go with a couple experienced riders who took me on a way-too-advanced-for-my-skill-set ride, which landed me in urgent care with a messed up wrist. I was a little too big for my britches back in those days. I'm much more in control/discriminating now.

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
Practice, practice, practice! And it does help tremendously to ride behind more experienced riders who will slow their roll for you; watching/mimicking what they do helps you to improve and gain confidence.

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 I can't imagine going on a road or mountain bike ride without them now; it is much safer and more efficient. Learning clipless pedals was a VERY steep learning curve for me (maybe I'm just a little slow on the uptake) and I crashed constantly until unclipping became habit. I would suggest practicing in the yard or on another forgiving surface until it becomes more of an instinct. Or just ride up a mountain road, get really tired, and then tip over from a standstill in front of your new lady-friend riding buddies...twice. That works too.

I'd love to know a bit more on when you started competing, what inspired you to do so, and how it makes you feel!
I have only done two bike races (both times, it was a mountain bike race on a four-person team), the first being in 2012 and the second being last summer. (I have less than zero interest in ever racing my road bike.) I had been somewhat interested in racing for quite some time, but I felt intimidated and nervous about not finishing at least somewhere in the middle of the pack. (I'm not a "I'll be happy if I just finish" kind of a person.)
Also, all of my earlier years of mountain biking were spent in the mountains of Arizona and Montana, where the terrain is pretty non-forgiving. I just never knew if I was really ready. My friend, Dan, and I used say we were going to do some race near Bozeman, but we would have to pack a bunch of sticks to shove in the spokes of all the little kids who would pass us. Obviously, we were feeling really fast. ;-) I finally registered for a race when I had other ladies to race with here in the Midwest. My fear of being last vanished and I knew we would have a good time, regardless of outcome (not that I didn't give it 110% while I was on the course). 
I am so glad I took the opportunity to participate as a racer and not just as support. I loved the experience, had a great time cheering on my teammates and hubby, was proud of my performance, and felt empowered by the results I saw when pushing myself as hard as I could (which I basically never do when I ride just for fun). I'm not sure how quickly I will be able to get my fitness level back up after baby, but I am hopeful to do a race again in the fall. If not this year, then definitely next summer.

If you are a commuter what are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
I have never really commuted much by road. I used to ride some single track between my house and the hospital when that was an option, but the overwhelming majority of my commuting has been via car.

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? my Outback.

Have you had a bike biff? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?
I used to crash literally every ride. It was partially a product of riding trails above my skill level (how are you going to learn if you don't?) and partially from being a bit (incredibly?) reckless. I recovered quite quickly mentally, but that is because I was young (early 20s) and my brain wasn't fully developed yet (as my husband and I like to say). I used to think all my scabs and scrapes were cool battle scars, but now I find them annoying. I demonstrate considerably more judgment when choosing what to attempt these days; that and my skill set is greatly improved. I still go down every now and then, and it does throw off my mojo, but I forget about it by the next ride. 
What do you love about riding your bike?
The same things that have kept me motivated over the years: fitness, comradery, being outside, and fast downhills. A beer in the parking lot afterwards is a big positive as well.

You were biking before you met him? Was he at all a lead into competing or did you start that on your own?
I started biking regularly in 2006. We met in 2011 in Madison through mutual friends in the bike industry (he is an industry professional). Our shared interest in riding has been a foundation piece of our relationship, as we both love exercising and hitting the trails together. As far as racing is concerned, I like to take all the credit for starting to compete occasionally. Although, him being registered for the same races on men's teams was probably a factor. 

Did your husband introduce you into a different style of riding? (like Road?)
I had self initiated a few road rides prior to spending time with my husband, but he encouraged me to get my own road bike and learn how to ride it properly. (Who knew there was actual technique and strategy involved? I thought you just pedaled down the road.) "Ride it properly" lessons can be quite a challenge, as I don't take well to instruction from my significant other (which is ridiculous, as I could learn a ton from him, as he has an extensive racing history). Some of his helpful tidbits still trickle into my brain, even though I get pouty about constructive criticism when I am tired/hungry (which I most of the time I'm on my road bike).

Do you and your husband go on rides together often, or do you have separate rides?
Prior to my pregnancy kicking into gear, we tried to ride together as much as possible. He tells me that I am his 'favorite riding buddy', which is very sweet. However, he is way faster than me, so we make sure he gets out with the A-team when he can in order to zoom around at his full potential. I really enjoy most of our mountain bike rides together (probably because I feel pretty skilled and like I can somewhat hold my own). Road rides together are a crap shoot, as he likes to ride efficiently (which means pedaling faster than I feel like pedaling sometimes) and I would often prefer to lay in the grass and take a nap.

I don't take particularly well to criticism from my partner, whether it be of the helpful or frustrated variety. :-) I found some friends in Arizona to ride with that were way better than me, but were also very patient...and were not my significant others, which meant I let myself take direction from them much more agreeably. It's all very silly. I should just let myself learn whatever I can from whomever I can, but that seems to be easier said than done sometimes.
I was 23 when I started and still found it to be a pretty steep learning curve. But it feels so great every time you obtain a new skill, no matter how minor! I still get excited about it. Mountain biking just keeps getting better and better as you improve and build confidence.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Women on Bikes Series: Elly Lensch

When did you first start riding a bike? 
I think I was 4 or 5 when I was riding my aunt’s banana seat bike at my grandparent’s house. It was way too big for me, but I didn’t care. I rode around their farm yard, up and down the grassy hills and on the gravel drive. But I think I was 6 when I got my first bike. It was dark ocean blue. My dad brought it home one day. I was so excited!! We lived on a really long gravel drive way, so even though I kept falling and skinning my knee, I kept getting back on. Our yard was large with a lot of trees and I was always riding in the dirt, grass and woods. Then when I was 14, I took my first paycheck from lifeguarding into the bike shop (I think it was still on Winnebago back then) and said. “I have this much, what will it get me.” They said, “This is the only bike we have that will fit you.” Lucky for me it was in the price range and it was a Trek 820 Antelope, which was kind of a MTB back in 1992.

It is typical for people to find themselves with more than one bicycle. Tell us about yours!
My favorite bike is a bike I no longer have. Twisty, because it was really fun and meaningful. Fit like a glove.
My second favorite bike is Ruby, the road bike, because it signified a change in me back to who I used to be before kids, which was free spirited, active, and healthy.
My third favorite bike is Mr. Blue, who I now use as a gravel bike and kid pulling bike, but was the mountain bike I bought with my first paycheck ever and who I have relied on as my primary transportation through college, because I did not have a car.
My least favorite, unfortunately, is my new mountain bike, a Trek Top Fuel. It's a really nice bike, but it has some quirks, and it is just a hair too big for me because it isn't women’s specific designed. I haven't even named this bike yet and I've had it a few years. I don't see it as being a long term bike in my life. I would like a new Trek built to the specifications of my old Twisty bike, because it was perfect. One day.... one day. I guess I should name it Mason the Muddy Mutant!

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
Freedom. When I am biking, I feel free from all the responsibilities and stressors in my life. I have always been an independent soul.

What kind of riding is your favorite? (paved, gravel, mountain) 
Each kind of riding has a place in my heart. I think gravels are awesome. I love the wide open rural roads Iowa has to offer. Mountain biking is a close second. If my skill level continues to improve, it will probably become my favorite. Every mountain bike ride is a good one, even if you fall or get injured. Sometimes you find morel mushrooms, sometimes it’s a deer or squirrel that adds humor or interest. Sometimes it’s just the trees in the wind. Or accomplishing a new section of trail, or getting muddy. It's all good. Paved riding is either family time for me or triathlon time, both of which I love. But you forgot urban riding. There is something fun and risky about zipping around town and jumping off curbs and over stairs that gets the heart pumping. I would also add night riding is quickly becoming a favorite, no matter when or who it is with, as long as my lights are charged.

Tell us more about your triathlon experience(s)!
Triathlons. Yes. When I got back into biking again after having my first kiddo, I was pretty out of shape. A friend of mine at work asked me to be the run leg of her triathlon, because she could not run due to bad knees. My thought was, "darn, I can bike and swim, but not run" but I hated to let down a good friend. So I agreed. We had fun, came in dead last, but it gave me some hope that I could get back in shape. So I started walk/running the treadmill at work and weight started flying off. But, I really wanted to do my own events. I didn't want to be on a team. I went to one bike shop and said, can you build me a tri bike. Obviously out of shape, the guy looked at me kinda weird, and said, "Probably..." but didn't really seem to have interest. So I left and went to a different bike shop. Walking around, I noticed a black and hot pink Specialized Ruby Expert. I fell in love with it instantly and I told the guys, don't sell this bike. I want it. I probably went back 8 times and made sure that they didn't sell the bike, because it was going to be mine. Finally I had enough money and also took advantage of some credit, and I got completely outfitted. Ruby, blinged out with pink anodized parts, car rack, bike shorts, new helmet, the works. I started riding and had almost forgotten how much fun it was. So the next winter, I signed up for the La Crosse Got Energy Sprint Triathlon as an individual. Nervous. Excited. I drove up early that morning, and got my numbers and was not last. I was just glad to have completed it. Nearly every summer since then I do at least one triathlon because I love swimming and don't dislike running too much now. 

I think the hardest triathlon was the one I did 2 years ago. Having had a baby not that long before, and having not trained AT ALL because it was a difficult pregnancy, I was not prepared for that race. It was the one in Red Wing, where there are a lot of hill climbs. I was pretty screwed. The day before, for my daughter's kids traithlon, the weather was beautiful!!! But the day of my race the weather was pretty crappy. I was one of the last people to get into the pool, but amazingly, I was not the last person to cross the finish line, and during my run, I passed people, which made me feel accomplished. I can't wait until my 2 year old is a little older and I can go to more races; maybe make it a family event. One day we do a kids race, and then next day we do the adult race.

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 don’t remember my very first mountain bike ride, because it was probably back in high school, but I remember mountain biking in college on trails in Minnesota and then coming back here to Decorah and thinking, whoa, these are some serious trails! My first mountain bike ride in my recent past I had a really nice Trek and I was so scared I would scratch it that I didn’t ride authentically. Now I have a really nice Trek, but I don’t care if I scratch it. I just do it.

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
I was really nervous the first time I tried some of the switchbacks. It was so rocky or root-y in places and I didn’t have a lot of control back then.

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 have clipless pedals on all my bikes. (mtb, gravel, road) I would just tell people to do it. You can’t judge it unless you try it. I prefer it, unless I know that I’m going on a trail still fairly new to me and I have a mental block about part of the trail. Then I switch them out to my knobby flats. It works.

If you are a commuter what are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
I have commuted from my house on gravel to work before. My concerns are never about the biking part, but more about the time factor and getting showered in time and where do I park my bike, because where the bike racks are here aren’t really near where my office is, so I worry about someone taking my bike. 

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 because I don’t want my clothes in my bag to get destroyed or wet, as I won’t time to pedal back up Quarry Hill Road for new stuff and make it in time with new clothes.

Have you had a bike biff? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?
1 HUGE bike biff and a lot of small biffs. The smallest biff was just trying to jump a curb and I oddly lost balance and fell over. I felt like a dork. I just laughed that one off. Medium biff last fall was in Van Peenen Park. I tried to turn too tight, hit a tree, tumbled over scraping my leg pretty badly.
My biggest biff was near ice cave on the river trail. Easy trail, but it was my first time attempting a pretty sizable log for me. Completely flipped! Head over heels over bike, clipped in and all. That one hurt. Honestly, that day I think I was done with it. Typically now I just come back to that place and do the same ride until I master it with no wobbles or problems. Consider it conquered and move on to something more challenging.

Last week I wrecked pretty bad trying to climb the hill from the river trail up to Ice Cave road, and it made me really paranoid to keep riding that day when I went to Van Peenen. Every time I came across rocks I got off because I didn't want to fall clipped in again. It’s always better to keep riding and not let yourself get too flustered if you have a fail moment.  It happens to all riders at some point.

What would you say has been your most meaningful bike ride?
A lot of them are meaningful. I think the time I attempted to ride the 100 mile Spring Training Ride was pretty meaningful and funny. I think we made it 32 miles is all. It was about 46 degrees and raining and the person I was riding with had to tinkle along the way. Cracked me up.

Probably the most meaningful: It's been difficult for me to get my hubby involved in riding for various reasons. Santa brought him a custom blue bike (Mr. Blu #2) and it wasn't really being ridden. Was beautiful bike art in my basement for a long time, but the interest wasn't there. So for our anniversary last August, I got an overnight babysitter, bought super awesome bike lights and took him on a midnight bike ride around the paved trail and through the urban sprawls of Decorah. We got home at the wee hours of the morning. And it was the BEST! He now loves his bike and now even rides it in to work sometimes.

I think biking brings people together and you can't argue with having fun people in your life with common interests.

What do you love about riding your bikes? 
Everything. The physical benefits are immense. The psychological benefits are well worth it, and the emotional benefits and sense of freedom attained from biking are wondrous. Above all, makes me feel young at heart and brings a smile on my face, the kind of smile you get from skipping when you’re a little kid. It’s all good.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Bike rides and Periods-Real Women Discuss

There is a great website that has been started up called Wheelwomen Switchboard, set up specifically for bike riding women to ask for questions, advice, or post offers-think bikes, saddle swaps, jobs, etc.

One of the questions I pondered was about how a woman’s menstrual cycle can affect her riding. Fatigue was #1 on my list and product use and disposal was second. I’m hoping for a couple longer rides this year and I firmly believe that my luck is not secure. I would rather plan for the worst case scenario of cramps and exhaustion and learn how to manage that rather than hope for the best.

So I took to the board to ask women "How do you deal?"

I received great suggestions from several women on the Switchboard about what they do for preparation of their period, dealing with it, as well as what they use for products. There should be something beneficial for just about every woman in this post!

Products-What women use, disposal tips, etc.

Sonia D: I have climbed up a volcano with my cup in (all day outing, no facilities) and didn’t have to empty it until I got back to base that night. LOVE it.

Rachel D: I pretty much always get my period for long rides and camping, so I am well accustomed to changing menstrual products on the go. In my usual life I use the Keeper and cloth pads, but while camping/biking without facilities I prefer the ease of tampons.

I did the Pittsburgh-DC trail ride for 6 days on my period, and like you mentioned, I used ziplocs to keep everything under control. I kept clean tampons and toilet paper in one ziploc and then had a few ziplocs for dirty tampons. I just rolled them in toilet paper and they were fine (and didn’t bleed through the toilet paper, but I used a lot, haha) until I found a garbage can. I put everything in a small cloth bag and stuffed it in my pannier until I found a trash can. All good!

If you won’t be taking panniers but you’ll have a frame bag or seat bag or something, I bet menstrual supplies would fit in it.

Velo T: Regarding menstruating during a century, snip the string of the tampon so it is very short to eliminate chafing. Also use a chamois butter cream to make sure you don’t chafe. There is nothing worse than chafing on a century because you have to keep riding even in pain. And find a bathroom, or outhouse along the way. There is usually something along a 100+ mile route, like a gas station, outhouse, or restaurant to change it up. If you are doing an organized century with rest stops, they will most likely have an outhouse or bathroom.

Holly S: Old coffee bags (the wax lined ones) have served me well when cycling/hiking without amenities. If you have a few lying around that aren’t otherwise being reused, consider them for a discrete storing option.

Things to consider:

April S: Thoughts for you on the energy side from a somewhat wimpy rider (me!). Iron supplements and an iron levels test - you may have some anemia that you notice more when your iron stores are so obviously being depleted. I like iron in a cream form because it absorbs fast and I can actually feel it - but if you tolerate a pill, much easier on a bike ride. 


K.A.: Eventually I noticed it my period and thought maybe I was slightly anemic— which I was . My body didn’t have the iron it needed to do things, hence the huge fatigue. I’m not vegetarian, but I didn’t and don’t eat a lot of meat. I began supplementing eating foods high in iron. I changed my breakfast back to Cheerios (45% daily value in 1 bowl) or oatmeal (25% DV in a bowl) and discovered Trader Joe’s has a 0% fat Greek Yogurt with 11 % daily value of iron in 1 serving (pomegranate flavor). I also went hard core on leafy green vegetables too– not salad so much, but kale, spinach, chard, mustard greens…things like that.

April S: I also love green morning smoothies for upping the iron-rich veggies; stir-frying and all sautes in cast iron pans, and more iron-rich foods around my period in general.

Velo T: Regarding fatigue, I increased my intake of iron rich foods on a daily basis. I eat a ton of kale and spinach, and beef at least once a week, especially during my period. Molasses in my oatmeal instead of other sweetener. Before a long ride, I will eat an entire beet, they are a great endurance food. Also, I turn up the water and carb intake for the three days prior to the long ride.

Nutrition on the go:

Sonia D: As far as tiredness, I am lucky that’s not something I suffer from–at least not something I specifically suffer during my period! Lots of gels and Gu have caffeine in them though. You can bring some along in case you bonk.

April S: I like Guayaki Enlighten Mint for energy and fluids replenishment (and the taste). And rest stops when you first feel the dip coming on rather than when you are exhausted.

Velo T: Make sure you are replenishing your electrolytes with a healthy supplement during the ride, I like GU Brew, or Nuun. They don’t leave me bloated with sodium like Gatorade does. The GU and Hammer gels are great. I usually take a couple of the espresso ones with me. I find the caffeine is a big help at the 50 & 75 mile mark to give me that extra boost for a strong finish

Keepn’ it real:

Rachel D: As part of that PGH-DC ride, I rode for 90 miles one day on my period, and it poured for 45 miles of it. I definitely had a little cry for five minutes on the side of the trail!

K.A.: I think nutrition had a lot to do with it. This season I’m riding even more and I am careful to put the right kinds of food in my body and sufficient calories too, to do all I want. 

Emily S: A friend of mine just gave an amazing presentation on the menstrual cycle - the WHOLE cycle, not just the menstruation phase - and it really expanded how I think about my body and my cycle. It was totally empowering! She talked about what’s happening during different phases of our cycle, and how that factors into our emotional state, energy levels, etc. She also talked about how, if we pay better attention to our bodies, we can use this to our advantage. For example, during ovulation, you typically have lots of energy and positivity and charisma, so it’s a great time to interview for a job or delve into a project. The luteal and menstruation phases are great times for reflection and introspection. Every phase is important and can help us achieve different things in our lives.

The big takeaway was that we need to stop listening to the message in our patriarchal society that our menstruation makes us irrational and crazy, that periods are nothing more than a painful inconvenience, that we should feel ashamed when we’re emotional - in short, that we should feel ashamed of being women. Instead, we can celebrate the wisdom that comes from the sense of flow and changing perspective, respect our bodies’ changing needs and energies, and feel powerful and wise because we are women!

Ever since that talk, I’ve been taking more notice my cycle and how I feel during different phases, and I’ve been much better at listening to my body and giving myself “permission” to rest when I need quiet and introspection. I feel totally empowered to listen to and respect myself and my feelings, instead of blaming my uterus for making me an emotional crazy lady and totally discounting feelings that are actually really important.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Women on Bikes Series: Sarah Cooper

I'm 42, married with four kids. I'm formerly an acute care nurse practitioner specializing in cardiology, but I've been at home with the kids for 8 years. I grew up near Detroit, Michigan.
Sarah's blog: sixcoopers

When did you first start riding a bike?
I learned to ride as a little kid, but my most memorable childhood bike was when I got my first 10 speed at age 10. I used to ride all over the city for hours, all by myself. I didn't need a destination or company, I just liked to ride. 

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
I spent my 20's and 30's working and having kids. I didn't ride much at all except to commute. I have more time and energy now in my 40's, and I like to travel. I've been to cycling and triathlon events all over the country. It's an excuse to go someplace I've never been, or always wanted to see.

What kind of riding is your favorite? (paved, gravel, mountain)
 Paved or gravel. I'm pretty new to mountain biking, and quite terrible at it. 

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 remember one of my first rides on the road bike I bought for Hyvee, I averaged 15mph. It felt so fast, and I remember being terrified to go any faster. 

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it? 
I've always been nervous near traffic, and on busy roads. I never ride with headphones or music, and I try to ride defensively.

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 use clipless pedals. Just make sure they aren't set super tight and you won’t have trouble with them.

If you are a commuter what are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
 I used to be a commuter, but not since the kids came along many years ago.
Have you had a bike biff? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?
 I was hit by a car that ran a red light over 20 years ago. She hit the rear fork of my bike, and missed crushing my leg by inches. I have residual hearing loss, but my other injuries healing quickly. I am very uncomfortable riding in high traffic areas, and with large groups of cyclists, but other than that I've been able to move past it. 

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love to be outside, I love to travel to new places, and I like to get away from the city. I enjoy riding with friends when I can, and I really enjoy racing. I've met so many interesting people all over the country through cycling and triathlon, and I've seen some really incredible and often funny things. 

What inspired you to start competing?
I happened to be downtown in
2007 for the finish of the HyVee triathlon. I decided I needed to do
that, just once. I ended up signing up for a half ironman before I'd
even finished my first HyVee triathlon. It's just spiraled into all
kinds of adventure.

Have you done many time trials like the one you just completed?
That was my first 24 hour time trial. But true to form, I'd already signed

up for a few other 24 hour or longer gigs before I finished that one.
I'm very glad I enjoyed it.

Could you describe your most exciting competition?
Exciting to me means traveling someplace beautiful, or wild. The AdventureCorps
cycling events and Ironman Canada (Whistler) are probably my all time
favorites. I'd much rather see and experience a new place on a bike or
while running. Seeing it through the windshield of a car is just not
the same.

What is the most important lesson you've learned with competing?
Never mentally give up before you've reached the limits of your physical
ability. Find humor in the times when your day is not going well, and
use it to get beyond the rough moments.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Rites of Passage

I remember back when I was a little scrapper of a kid who went out fishing on the Yellow River with her dad. Apparently you can catch trout in the Yellow River, however I seem to not have a knack for anything "Smith-y"

I cannot find morel mushrooms, I cannot find arrowheads, I suck at finding really awesome fossils and agates, and to catch a trout? HA! Mockery. I forgot...I've never hunted either. I'm a Smith but cut from a far different cloth apparently, which is fine by me. I will find my own awesomeness.

I remember I had just started getting comfortable with the concept of putting a worm on a fishhook all by myself. I was never confident with it, truth be told, but I wanted to "man up." I mean, if I'm going to be a terrifically skilled fisherman I must worm my own hook. That is when I cut my finger, I remember the blood rushing to the surface and trickling down towards my arm. I do not believe it hurt too much, and I think to make me feel better my dad said "Now you are a true fisherman, you caught yourself on the hook. That happens to everyone at least once."

I remember beaming with pride over my new found fisherman status. I was a "true" fisherman now, nothing could take that away from me. Never mind that I caught nothing better than a sucker to which I said "A sucker for the sucker."

Today I went on a great ride with a friend of mine (Kristin) and introduced her to some of the trails I know. This was my first time riding with someone other than Travis, now I would be the leader in assisting someone with what was coming up. Hills, climbs, roots, scary spots, etc. I would be the one giving tips and tricks, even if I managed to fumble myself. It was educational for me and made me think more about when I did have flubs-what did I do to make it happen? What can I tell Kristin so she knows if it were to happen to her?

We started off on the IPT trail and I decided that I would show her North 40, part of which we walked. As we pedaled some steeper uphills we came to a point where we stopped to walk. All of a sudden I had a sensation that every woman is not really excited over. I had, without a doubt, started my period.
 (Yes, this post is going to be open, honest, and without a doubt sharing what ended up to be a very humorous moment for me. Yup, period talk...I'm keeping it real!)
See, I had a suspicion that I would be starting my period-however I wasn't really expecting it to come into full-fledged status for another day or so. This is what you get when you have a Paragard IUD or perhaps no birth control at all. I'm still getting used to the (haha) ins and outs of this particular non-hormone birth control.

I had stood up over my bike and said "Well crap!" What was I going to do? I was completely unprepared minus one poor, piddly pantyliner which didn't do a damn thing. The irony I shared with Kristin is that I always seem to start during a bike ride. Most times I'm not planning to be out as long as I was going to be on this day, or I'm in street clothes and properly equipped. Either way it seems that biking, the effort of going up hills, triggers the start. "Alright, I'm going to start right when you are feeling your most strongest and powerful self. I'm going to make you feel instantly awkward and make you question how long you can go without worry. (Insert maniacal laughter)"

I took heart with the fact that often I do not have a heavy flow to start and I proved myself so totally and completely wrong. We kept riding and riding, up Gunnar, through the pines, then took a spin on Little Big Horn. I decided to take Kristin the way that Travis took me on that past Tuesday. I surprised myself with the hill climbing I was able to accomplish yet still had a hard time with some of the turns and such. Eventually we came to a down-hill turn that you had to stand up and sit back over your seat. I successfully did it once out of 3 times. Hey, it all counts!

We eventually came to a rooted section where you had to lift your tire up to get over it. I found out the hard way on Tuesday's ride with Travis, but found success today. Then we came to this perfect log section where we were able to session lifting your front tire up and over. We did that a couple times before finishing our ride on the trail.

Once we were done with Little Big Horn we came back and road really fast down this section of the prairie trail. When we came to a stop at Gunnar's entrance I asked Kristin what she wanted to do next. "Can we do Little Big Horn again?" How could you say no to that earnest looking face? I couldn't! So we went and did Little Big Horn all over again. I successfully made the corner turn one more time and left it at that. We were done with our second loop before I knew it, and I found myself feeling very satisfied.

Down Gunnar and another loop through North 40 where this time Kristin accomplished the hairpin downhill that really freaked me out the first time. What a rush! After that we went down and through IPT and decided that one more loop through and back would suffice. There was a potential chance she could go on a ride with Travis and myself later and to top it off? It was way past lunch time!

Now this is where it gets to be awkward and funny....
We turned around and went back out of IPT and when we came to the fire road I looked down and saw something amiss. It turns out my chamois was not going to be the savior I thought it would be. "Oooh man!" I was feeling pretty darn sheepish. Of all days, why did I choose to wear teal shorts?! Lesson quickly learned and I experienced something I never really experienced before. Quick thinking had me take off my baggy shorts and shove them into my Camelbak. I was wearing padded black shorts under the baggy ones and apparently black is my friend right now. I laughed my embarrassment off and decided to just do an awesome job on the way back. I joked about saying I got into a wrestling match with a bear. That sounds reasonable, right?

When Kristin and I left IPT there was a man whom I am pretty sure works or is otherwise affiliated with the Surly Bikes crew who came to Decorah to camp out for the weekend. I noticed he had a really awesome tattoo on his leg and complimented him on it. He said "Thanks!" and then said what made me giddy inside..."Nice bike!" Oh boy! I felt like the hottest chick on the block after that-and it was a compliment to my bike vs. me. Still, it was pretty badass if I do say so myself.

On the ride back to my house before Kristin and I would make way back to the bike shop, her place, and then lunch at the Co-Op I told her that it felt like I experienced a female mountain biker's rite of passage. Like a hook snagging the delicate flesh of your finger, you can't possibly be a woman bike rider and not ever experience a surprise like I did today. Let me tell you this, I never was a girl scout but I sure learned a lesson in being prepared today. Regardless of the accidents (tipping over, smacking trees, making my knee bleed, etc.) You can't get any better than that!
it was the best 3 hours I spent on a bike in quite awhile.

p.s. On the ride that Kristin, Travis and I went on later in the afternoon/early evening you bet I wore black, baggy shorts. Also, I can attest that the teal Specialized Andorra Comp short will get a review before long as well. I really appreciate that they are designed with fabric that is more stain-resistant than not which is a huge plus for someone who has a variety of mishaps-be trail or body.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Women on Bikes Series: Laree Schouweiler

You first met Laree with her Women Involved blog post, now meet the woman on the bicycle!

When did you first start riding a bike? 
I first started riding with training wheels when I was four years old at my grandparent's home in Northfield, Minnesota under my dad's supervision. Although, I don't have much memory of that, only the photo attached, I remember the freedom I felt when I received my first Huffy in middle school. It felt as though I could reach all the corners of the world; especially because my world consisted of the convenience store down the block and my best friend, Rachel's home in the neighboring neighborhood. 

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years? 
Riding came haphazardly as I was really trying to get my running career off the ground (aka: finish a half-marathon in under three hours). I found running endless and boring; not to mention all the ailments that come with training (sore knees, tight IT bands and blisters). So, after training for several half-marathons, I decided I needed to break-up the longer runs with competing in duathalons. I loved it. I picked up my first road bike at Decorah Bicycles and have continued to ride three seasons out of the year since 2011. 

What kind of riding is your favorite? (paved, gravel, mountain)  
Pavement. I'm a wuss and don't like to venture too far off the road/trails. I'm a city girl at heart. 

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.)
 2011 Honestly, I was wondering if I could "play the part"?  Would people be able to tell that I wasn't a veteran rider? I was really nervous about understanding the rules of riding on the road. Wanting to make sure I did all the right signals, road in the right lanes, etc... 
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?  
When I purchased my bike, I also got SPD pedals (see above about "playing the part"). They have truly changed my ride since DAY ONE and I am thoroughly happy with the purchase. I always exclaim that I wish I could find running shoes that are as supportive and comfortable as my clip-ins... For beginners: YOU CAN DO IT. Hop on (near a grassy knoll) and go for it. Don't think too much about it. Everyone falls. There is more information in falling than there is in riding on the straight and narrow your whole life. Take that metaphor as you like :)

If you are a commuter what are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome them? 
I would consider myself a quasi-commuter. The winter riding isn't for me, but I try as much as I can to ride to the studio (or when I need to run errands) during the other seasons. With that said, there are days that I teach several classes per day and my legs need a break or timing doesn't always work out. We became a one car family last fall, so I am excited to see how that changes my commuting this spring!

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? See above

Have you had a bike biff? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?  
Thus far, I have been really lucky and only had several close calls (where I clipped out at the last minute). I have gotten caught in a few cracks in the concrete crossing over the green bridge and I remember thinking "Pull it together so you don't fall in front of oncoming traffic." That thought can really straighten one out. 

What do you love about riding your bike? 
2011 It brings me back to the freedom I had when I first received my Huffy. There is something to be said about putting the work in and feeling like you've accomplished so much. You can get out for an hour and see corners of Decorah you've never seen. Not being a slave to the gas pump when you need to run a quick errand. The possibilities on your bike are endless...