Women on Bikes Series: Carla Schwerin

My husband and I crop farm, Randy is a retired dairy farmer. We have a 16 yr old daughter, Leona. 
I have a huge garden; thus growing and preserving most of our own food. We also raise about 300 butcher chickens every year, doing all the work ourselves. We also have laying hens for fresh eggs. 
I am a fitness freak and Randy has a 45+ yr old steam engine hobby currently owning 9.  We love local bike trails and have several organized bike rides we do every year. 

When did you first start riding a bike?
Other than riding as the typical kid around town to friends houses and to school, I started riding more seriously in 2006 when I started biking to my job to save gas money. In 2007 I discovered bike trails and 2008 I rode in RAGBRAI and the rest is, as they say, all downhill!!   

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
Staying fit has been a big part of my motivation. Years of training horses, grooming dogs and farm work leaves a person with a lot of aches and pains and biking was easier on my body than running or other high impact exercises. When I started dating my husband Randy in 2008, he became a bigger part of my motivation. Bless his heart for trying, but he wasn't comfortable on the back of a horse, so biking was something we could do together, along with my teenage daughter, as a family.  We kept finding more bike trials to ride, more beautiful country to see and we became hooked.   

What made you realize that cycling was something you were passionate about?
When you get home at night and are ready to go right back out the next day!  When a century ride is exhilarating rather than exhausting! When 3000 miles in one summer is NOT enough…..  :-) 

Have you had any accidents or situations that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
In March of this year ('14), I bulged two discs in my lower back.  After about 6 weeks of physical therapy, it was obvious that I probably wouldn't be able to ride much this summer. I would try from time to time, but I finally decided to hang up my bike for the summer and let my back heal. To see my beloved Pocket on the wall in the garage was tough. It was hard for me to watch my husband go out the driveway for a ride and it was hard for him to ride without me along. I focused on my rehab exercises, diligently doing them every day, knowing that I didn't want to mess up my back for good and not be able to bike again, not to mention the numerous other activities that I wouldn't be able to do. By August, I was able to ride about 5 miles without pain. Oh Happy Day!!  By September I was up to 20 miles, no hill climbing, and I knew that by next year I would be good as new.  So, for the rest of the summer, I continued rehab and would bike a little here and there. Life was good!   

You and your husband ride together a lot! What do you enjoy most about being able to share an activity with your partner?
Being together! Being able to share with each other the great scenery of bike trails, the satisfaction of conquering a big hill together, and the wind-in-your-face on the other side of that hill. Sitting around the campfire (if camping), eating s’mores, and remembering the highlights of that day’s ride; mostly, just being together.   

What are a couple of your favorite organized rides and why are they so fun?
Bike Van Buren is our favorite one. A two day organized ride in Van Buren County in southern Iowa put on by the Keosauqua Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Center. It is a great ride! Beautiful countryside, great food, good friends and very well organized.  We like the size; usually about 250 people, so not a huge ride. Last year Randy won the raffle and a brand new bike!! We've made friends there that we look forward to seeing every year. We also like Tour De Pepin-a one day ride around beautiful Lake Pepin in Lake City, MN the first Saturday in June. Both of these rides offer several different route lengths. Tour De Pepin also offers ferry rides back across the lake if you opt for the shorter route. We are always looking for new rides to try and have a few on our list, but these are two of our favorites.   

What do you love about riding your bike?

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
My husband has an older Trek 7100 he bought from my brother-in-law for riding around home on the gravel roads. This was the first one he bought when we started riding together, kind of a level entry bike.  He also has a Trek Ion Gary Fisher Cyclocross for "normal" riding.  He didn't really "choose" this one; he won it at the Bike Van Buren ride in the raffle. Lastly, a Trek Domane 4.5 for days when he wants to really cover ground. I have the Catrike Pocket but also have two Specialized bikes that I used to ride. My daughter rides them now when she comes along. One is an older Specalized comfort type bike that was my entry level bike that I found in a pawn shop, an oldie but goodie. The other was my next step up bike, a Specialized Dolce Sport. I hop on them once in a while, but really prefer the Pocket.   

Why is a recumbent bike a good choice for you?
As mentioned earlier, a life time of hard work and car accidents left me with some neck, shoulder, wrist and hand problems. Riding an upright bike was starting to take its toll. My hands would be asleep within a mile of leaving home and my neck ached all the time. With the help of Decorah Bicycles, we tried adjusting my seat, wrapping the bars, changing the angle of the drops, better gloves and nothing helped.  While riding one of our favorite trails, The Great River Trail in Savannah, Illinois, we stopped at a bike shop along the way. Arnold's Bikes in Thomson, Illinois, a bike shop specializing in recumbent bikes. (Sadly, the owner has since passed but the shop is still open
There were used recumbent trikes out front of the store, along with several other two wheeled recumbents. I had no interest in the two wheeled ones, but the trikes looked interesting so I took one for a test ride. I noticed right away the comfort of my upper body.  My neck was comfortable and my hands were not asleep. And such FUN!! It was like riding a mini go cart!! I was HOOKED! But alas….as we stood there looking at it, a man came and bought it….so the search began for another. The owner of the shop gave me some names of brands and dealers and we went on our way. Back home I researched the many brands of recumbent trikes, pros and cons. I made calls to Travis to make sure he could service it for me, and after a trip to Ames, settled on a Catrike Pocket.  

What transitions did you experience after you started to ride a recumbent?
We purchased my Pocket late summer of 2012. The transition wasn't too bad!  I was really looking forward to less upper body problems. The first couple of rides I focused on getting the boom, steering handles and brakes set so I was comfortable. There are lots of little tweaks in the steering handles to make it a super comfy ride. After that, I fumbled around with shifting before I figured that out; not so good when climbing a hill and you shift the lever the wrong way!  
I put shorter crank arms on it to combat some knee pain I started having and I found some new leg muscles the first few rides as well. I think the most challenging transition was hill climbing. You can't stand up and use body weight to help with power and that made a huge difference. While I rode a lot and felt I was in great shape, climbing hills on the trike was much harder. 
You basically put it in granny gear and "spin" your way to the top. It is a much slower process but you don't have to worry about tipping over!! I fatigued quicker the first few rides until I got my recumbent legs.
I often have my little dog behind me in a BOB trailer so that slows me down too, but going downhill is a BLAST!!  You can get going really fast and can take the corners/curves like a go-cart….ZOOM!!! Such fun! 
All in all, I am very happy with my trike and look forward to many many more miles on it.   

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I’m not too fussy on clothing. I don't need padded shorts on my trike like you do on a standard bike. Just shorts made out of a moisture wicking material. I think my favorite accessory are the clip-in shoes. They are a MUST for the trike, or your feet would not stay on the pedals and you could be injured. A close second would be my BOB….so my dog can come along!  I would recommend to friends to get good quality clothing, padded gloves and clip-in shoes.  AND A HELMET!!   

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling?
I am not sure…maybe the cost of purchasing a good quality bike and the accessories you need to begin.  It is such a great past time and a great source of exercise that is easy on the body. I am not sure what would deter anyone from biking! Some people make comments about the clothing, especially the tighter shorts. "I'm not wearing those!" I have seen some styles of clothing that is looser fitting so if women are hesitant because of the tight nature of the clothing, there are other options out there.   

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride?
I think if they just give it a try they would really like it. There are so many options for bikes, clothing, seats, etc. It just takes one time to get hooked! Maybe local (women only) riding clubs and clubs or rides geared more for beginners so they don't feel intimidated by more experienced or stronger riders and focus the rides on easier trails and shorter rides. 

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?
The feeling of accomplishment, strength, and fitness! It’s so great to get out of the gym and out of the house. You get fresh air, sunshine, and what better way is there to burn some calories and fat!? 

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
When eating chips (no matter the kind), I LOVE the ones that are folded over! HA!!