Thursday, August 28, 2014

Taking the Lane: Planning the Perfect Route!

You have the perfect bike, the matching commuter friendly outfit, and all the gear to get you from home to Mars safely, but do you have a route? The last bit is typically overlooked as being not important. You can always hop in a car and hit up familiar routes or use a GPS system while driving to direct you. On a bicycle most of your senses are preoccupied with riding and staying upright. Using a GPS while riding is possible, but for daily trips isn't necessary. In this post I will talk about how to how to find safe commuting routes for your daily adventures!

I will start with the most simple method of finding a route, exploring! Take out your bike, walking shoes, or even your car and scope out neighborhoods, quiet side streets, and basically every direction you could take to your destination. I almost want you to get lost. Well, strategically lost. I have found the best paths to work, home, or the corner store just by wandering in the general direction. These paths may take longer, but they are usually more fun.

While exploring is the adventurous part of commuting on the slightly more serious side you may want an actual route that is quick and safe. Other resources that are incredibly handy are websites like Google maps, Map my Ride, and even Strava. If we start simple Google maps has bike routes that are surprisingly handy. They will give you a good route that can be adapted to your needs also. Maybe you wanted to stop at that little coffee shop on the way to work. It's easy to see where all the sneaky side streets are along their recommended route.

Easy to understand!

Next level internet road sleuthing involves making your own routes on websites such as Map my Ride or Ride with GPS. You will be able to take your knowledge of roads and create your own route. You can even put these routes onto your phone or GPS device and have them help you navigate while you ride. Using a bike mounted phone carrier would be ideal. Something like this from Topeak. Hopefully you won't need to use the GPS for very long, but it is a great idea to break the ice and get you out there on safe routes!

The last bit of helpful information I have found online is within Strava. You do have to have a premium profile on Strava to use this information, which is why I mention it last. I personally don't even use this information, but with that being said it is very helpful. They are the heatmaps, they show the routes people have traveled on all of their rides. This is a great way to get a feel of a new city, you can check and see where the locals have been riding and what type of riding they are doing. Typically people will explain their rides, but all styles of riding and types of rides should be allowed on all legally shared roads. Do not be afraid if a fast road ride always goes down your new route for commuting. Every style of cyclists should be accepted on the road.

In conclusion it really is important to have a set route before you head out on your commute. It will make the ride much less stressful, empower your sense of belonging on the road, and you will probably see parts of your town you never knew existed. I have lived in my town for nearly 7 years and I see something new weekly. I have multiple routes to locations, usually depending on how many hills I feel like riding. But really, this has allowed me to just slow down and enjoy the ride, even if I don't know where I am going.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Gravel Worlds 2014 - Dolla Dolla Bill Y'all


My visual race recap.
My written race recap begins around mile 100 after the checkpoint at Craig Schmidt's Aunt's and Uncle's. This was my first Gravel Worlds. Really, things had gone pretty well for me up to that point. I had accidentally reset my cyclometer flipping cue sheets and the temps had gotten pretty hot but I was hanging in there. I had ridden 112 miles in the Cornhusker State Games Gravel Grinder so was still within familiar mileage.  I continued to see the same people at most of the checkpoints and oasis's so I knew I was keeping a steady decent pace. Everyone I had encountered doing the race or helping out had been awesome. Shortly after leaving the Schmidt Oasis, a piece of glass, a sharp rock or a small stick-figure devil with the pitchfork sliced the sidewall of my front tire and the tube exploded. Luckily I was slowing down at the time to turn. I quickly discovered there was about a centimeter cut in my side wall. I changed the tube but didn't actually know if I would be able to go on. I've had a lot of flats but never had my tire cut and honestly had no idea what would happen if I tried to ride on it. I changed the tube started riding very slowly. It seemed okay. I was very nervous going downhill for fear that I would get another fast flat and wipe out in the gravel.  Soon fellow Sheclismas, Joy Fischer and Gina Kovanda, caught up with me. I fumbled an explanation about my tire. I was overcome with stress not knowing if I should be riding or not. I slowed way down on descents.  Losing out on the benefit of the momentum from the downhill side of rollers breaks your spirit a little bit each time.  
I guess I choose my postcard wisely.  Its message was needed for both me and my tire.
This was the first point in the race where I felt in over my head. I didn't know if what I was doing was stupid or not. As I continued on toward the winery I had a constant concern about the tire but was able to keep plugging along.  I met up with Joy, Gina, Greg Rosenboom and Jason Berlowitz at the Winery.  I remember saying to Joy, "My tire seems to be holding up but I don't think I am." Insert "cheerleader" icon here.  Joy gave me some words of encouragement. Gina mentioned a dollar bill trick to reinforce the tire wall. Jason announced that he had sort of fixed his rear derailleur which had been having issues throughout the race and for the volunteers to call back in to let PCL HQ know was now back in the race! I had made it 15 miles with the cut tire so far so I decided to just "Proceed With Caution" as I had been doing.  After the winery, I could usually see those four out on the horizon ahead of me and I think they probably kept tabs on me. Finally reaching some pavement before the Hickman convenient store I discovered my tire was pretty messed up by the thump thump thump thump it was doing so I decided I was done. When I got to the Hickman store, I would call Skip, my husband, who had already finished, to pick me up. See next cheerleader icon - the riders and supporters at the convenience store would hear nothing of it.  My defenses were weak and their enthusiasm was contagious.  This is why doing races like this are so special.  Had I been there by myself I would have definitely quit. I went inside and got a drumstick and my Powerball ticket before sitting down outside to "tuck a buck" between the tube and the tire. I found that my tube had begun to pop out through the tear and knew that things probably wouldn't have lasted much longer like that. Some of the riders wished me luck and headed out. 


Dollar bill tire boot.

Once the dollar bill was inserted I headed out from the Hickman convenience store only to be quickly joined by Jason. This is where Team MacGyver was formed. His now three speed and my tire boot limping together to the finish. I am so thankful for him. He tried to make conversation with me (I'm not a good small talker), navigated the rest of the way, and provided bright lights once it got dark.  I knew he wasn't going to let me quit. My text to Skip from Hickman telling him where I was hadn't gone through so with under 10 miles left to go Skip pulled up in the War Wagon after driving the course backward looking for me. He gave me a lot of thumbs up and encouragement. He knew nothing of my tire. He headed back to the finish to wait for us. Team MacGyver arrived 15hrs 25mins after the race started. I was greeted at the finish by the people who had figured so prominently in me getting there.  A perfect end to a very tough day.  I am so deeply proud of my accomplishment. I cannot thank the people around me that last third of the race enough. The encouragement and support was amazing.  And although, I had to actually ride the whole 153 miles myself, I wouldn't have been able to do it without them.  I also knew how proud I would be and how proud Skip would be of me, not just for finishing but for continuing with that jank ass tire.    Badassery achieved again!


This dollar bill saved Gravel Worlds for me.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Taking the Lane: Jazzing up Your Bike for Commuting

Have you noticed any electric bikes out there?  I don’t seem them often, but I am seeing them more and more.  And everytime I do, I think to myself, I should get one of those.  On the days when I’m just too tired to put forth the energy to bike to work, I could jump on one and barely pedal.  And if I did pedal, I would just go that much faster.


Seeing these bikes, sometimes referred to as e-bikes, has got me thinking about all the fun gadgets out there that just make biking that much more enjoyable.


Do your wrists ever hurt while riding your bike?  They make these great ergonomic handlebar grips in various shapes and sizes.  I suffer from wrist pain when biking on my mountain bike.  I tried a pair of ergonomic grips and I will never go back to regular grips again.  Your local bike store should have them in stock.


For those techy people out there who want to know how many calories they burned, how far they went, or how fast they did it you probably appreciate the are apps for your smartphone that track your routes and mileage and even tell you how to get where you need to on the trails (great for those easily lost or in unfamiliar neighborhoods).  For the competitor in you the Strava app is great.  You can compete against yourself, friends, and people you don’t even know for the fastest ride on various streets, roads, and trails.  Other similar apps such as Endomondo and MapMyRide.  Google has an app that will navigate you to your destination using bike trails and bike friendly roads if your community has designated them as such.


Apps just aren’t for tracking where you went, but there are apps to help you fix your bike.  I personally am a fan of youtube when I need to make bike repairs, but a quick app on the go might prove useful.


English: Sigma Sport 700 Cyclocomputer
English: Sigma Sport 700 Cyclocomputer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Bike cyclocomputers are a great add on.  If you have no idea what a cyclocomputer is, it is basically an odometer and speedometer in one.  Bell makes a nice cheap wireless one that will tell you your 
speed, distance, and keep track of your total miles ridden on your bike and is available in most discount stores.  You can always upgrade to a more expensive brand such as CatEye or Bontrager, and as a person who has both, I can say I’m pretty happy with the cheap Bell model to track my mileage.


If you will be riding in the dark, we all know you will be using a front and back light.  Not just a reflector, but a glow in the dark, light your path and see my tail light from more than 200 foot away kind of light.  But (yawn) that’s kind of boring right?  What can make it more fun are bicycle wheel/spoke lights!  Personally, I think these are pretty cool and they have the added bonus of making you that much more visible.  We have a pair of simple wheel lights.  They attach to the stem of the tube and centrifugal force activates the lights when the tires spin.  But when you watch the video below and see how fancy these lights can actually get, you’ll see just how cool they really can be and you might find yourself ordering some. Now I want some.




English: Looking west at a parked A2B Ultramot...
English: Looking west at a parked A2B Ultramotor electric bike in the East lower 70s on a sunny day. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Now if you’ve got some serious cash to spend on making commuting a bit more fun and easier, perhaps an electric bike is the right option for you.  Perhaps you have a lot to haul, or your commute is rather far and the assistance of an e-bike might just be up your alley.  You can get a conversion kit for your current bike at a cost of $200 - $300. You’ll need to be mechanically inclined to install the kit, but that would be a significant savings over the cost of a new electric bike.  I see more and more brands of electric bikes popping up everytime I Google search for them.  Pedego has some really cute electric bikes and run just over $2,000 each.  Prodeco sells several e-bikes on Amazon.com starting at $800.  Most bikes will get you 18-20 miles without much pedalling.  And to be honest, the thought of not pedalling home on a really hot and humid day is certainly appealing to me.  I might have to start saving my pennies.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Taking the Lane: Commuting Makes You More Human (In a good way)

We are all human, but we are also Americans and sometimes - because we are Americans - life can get in the way of us being "more" human.


Time seems to be something we Americans don't have enough of. We are always rushed to get to work, to get to the store, to get to school, to get our kids to school....... so cars help us out in that respect because we can get where ever it is we need to go - FAST! We get in the car, we have the windows up (because the air/heat is on) and we just go. We don't notice things...flowers, trees, children, families, animals..... we are just one with the car and we get to where we need to be - usually by the shortest route possible. Days go by, months go by, seasons go by and we don't notice any of it. We don't see the other drivers expressions, we don't see happiness, sadness....nothing. We are, in essence, a machine ourselves.
BUT throw that same machine of ourselves on a bike and all that melts away........ we become more human. We know the other commuters, maybe not by name but we KNOW them. We see the changes going on in nature every.single.day. We get to REALLY experience the seasons happening....from start to finish. We get to see moms and children heading to school each morning, we get to see people and their pets taking their first, or second, walk of the day, we get to witness emotions within ourselves, and others we see on our commute. We are MORE human and it is a good thing.
There is a campaign going on by Mizuno right now stating "What if Everybody Ran?" Well, my question to everyone is "What if Everyone Commuted?" Seriously, think about it...... ALL the problems would be solved (as I see it). Healthcare costs would plummet. No need for a pipeline to carry oil through Nebraska. Pleasant people everywhere you turn. Healthy people everywhere you turn. People that have slowed down and taken the time to get to where they need to go.
Becoming "more" human .... commuting .... happy people......"more" human.......the world needs more commuters!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Gearing up for Gravel Worlds 2014

On Saturday, 16 women affiliated with Sheclismo will toe the start line at Gravel Worlds, representing in every single eligible category, from Open to Masters to Singlespeed to Cargo Bike to Tandem. The 150ish mile slog is nothing if not challenging, and no matter how far our Sheclismas make it along the course, they've been training hard and are all accomplishing a huge amount just by taking on the event.

Sheclismas know you can't have no in your heart.

Better yet, other Sheclismas and supporters will be staffing an oasis/checkpoint along the route, replete with treats and smiles and high fives and at least two Jennifers. 

And once Gravel Worlds is done, switch right on over in your brain -- our first night of cyclocross school is next Wednesday, August 20th!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Spokes for Hope: A Charity Bike-Ride to Benefit Voices of Hope

The women of Sheclismo are committed to the power of women helping women. Voices of Hope is a vital piece of the Lincoln community, providing invaluable support for women and families in the city. If you're free on August 30th, consider riding in their Spokes 4 Hope fundraiser! Children are welcome, too!

Ride a scenic stretch of Lincoln’s extensive trail network and help fund a vital, local non-profit! Spokes for Hope is a 6, 7, or 12 mile charity bike ride to raise money for Voices of Hope, a Lincoln non-profit organization that provides 24-hour-a-day crisis intervention, advocacy and prevention services for domestic violence, sexual assault and incest.

The bike ride takes place on Saturday, August 30th. Riders will meet at Antelope Park at 9:00 A.M. for check-in. The ride will begin at 9:30 A.M. and will conclude once all riders have finished their routes (the six mile route takes forty minutes, the seven mile route takes fifty, and the twelve mile route takes about an hour and twenty minutes to complete).

“This fundraiser is an event that gives the people of Lincoln an opportunity to support our agency while enjoying a fun and affordable family event,” says Executive Director Marcee Metzger. “All of our services, including our 24-hour crisis line, 24-hour advocacy in response to calls from hospitals and law enforcement, daily walk-in services for safety planning and crisis counseling, and support groups are provided free of charge. We could not provide these services without the support of our community through events such as Spokes for Hope.”

Riders will gather in the west parking lot at Antelope Park at 9:00A.M.. The ride will follow the Billy Wolff trail system north, past the Lincoln Children’s Zoo, the capitol, Union Plaza and Trago Park. From Vine Street, riders can either follow the A Route another half-mile to UNL, or follow the B Route east one mile to Peter Pan Park. Riders will then turn around and return to the park for refreshments. Spokes for Hope has been made possible by the generous sponsorship of the following Lincoln businesses: Screen Ink, Polkadot Bicycles, Printing Plus, Liberty First Credit Union, Russ's Market, and Open Harvest Coop.

Riders can register online at www.spokes4hopelincoln.org or by printing and mailing the registration form (available on the website) along with a check to Voices of Hope, 2545 N Street, Lincoln, NE 68510. Registration is $15 for adults ($20 with a shirt) and $10 for children 5-12 ($15 with a shirt). Children under 5 ride free. Riders' entire registration fee will be donated to Voices of Hope to help cover their operating costs. Contact Patsy Martin, Voices of Hope’s Communications Coordinator for questions or to arrange for interviews.

Patsy Martin

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Taking the Lane: How Predictable!

First order of business, today is the last day to log your miles for the National Bike Challenge for the month of July. So if you have not already log those miles. Further, if by chance you have not signed up yet, it is not to late to be a part of this movement.

If you look on the National Bike Challenge website, you will notice that there is tab you can click on about bike safety. One the points made is the importance of being a predictable cyclist. What this means is biking in way such that your intentions are clear to the cars, pedestrians, and other cyclists around you. It is a really easy way to keep yourself safer and to not annoy those around you. (Think about how much love that pedestrian who suddenly walks into the middle of the bike path.)

It is something most of us could always get a little better at, myself included. For me, I can get lazy about signaling and such when I am tired or stressed. So here are a few tips on being predictable.

Hand Signals


Motorists (should always) use turn signals and break lights to communicate with divers around them. This always for smoother traffic flow and reduces accidents and when used consistently. It is also something that we have all come to expect. (Think about how annoying it is when someone forgets a turn signal.) Bikers have their method of communicating their intentions in the form of hand signals. A diagram of the signals can be found bellow. Most of us who have been cycling for awhile are very familiar with the hand signals, but I will admit that I did not know what they were until I was about four month into commuting. A few notes about hand signals, most people expect you to signal by pointing to the direction you are turning. The left handed right turn signal is not as commonly used. I have also seen people indicate that they are stopping by putting a hand up. This is technically not correct, but look out for it. Also, if you are cycling in heavy bike traffic (awesome) take care not to be so exuberant with your signally that you hit the person next to you.

Also, one further note, it is up to those of us who have been cycling for longer to make sure the newer cyclists and newer drivers are informed on hand signal meaning and usage.
Hand Signals
(image from https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/312586)

Look Ahead

Remember when you where learning how to drive and you were interacted to always look ahead and anticipate the actions of others on the road and keep an eye out for obstacles? Same idea applies on the bike. Roads these days seem to be strewn with a series of obstacles. So far in my own commute, I have had to avoid pot holes, broken glass, ceiling tiles, banana peels, hammers, knives, plywood among other things. I promise you that I am not commuting in the suburbs of London not a video game. Sudden swerving is sometimes unavoidable, but if you know there is an obstacle coming there are a few things you can do to give the motorists plenty of time to react to you moving into the center of the lane.
What my commute sometimes feels like
Let me give you the following scenario. You are lucky enough to have bike lane to travel on for your commute and up ahead you see that some cars have parked in your lane and you will need to move into the center of the road. Do you wait to merge until you have almost approached the park vehicles or do you merge earlier? The correct answer is to merge well before the obstacle and as soon as you see a gap in the traffic. To do this, signal that you will be entering traffic. Check to make sure the path is clear, and gently guide your bike to the center of the lane, ensuring you are far enough away from the parked car to avoid getting doored. This has also given the drivers behind you plenty of time to respond to having a slower vehicle in the center of the lane. I use the same technique for entering the center of the lane when I know that a section of road will be littered with potholes. However, this only works if you have either noticed the obstacles well in advance or are familiar enough with this stretch of road to know that they are there. Which leads me to stress the importance of looking ahead and anticipating the unexpected. This keeps everyone safer.Another time to consider moving closer to the center of the lane, is if you see a car about to turn onto your road from a side road. It has been my experience that these drivers often pull further forward than they should and this could keep you from suddenly swerving into the middle of the lane.


Traffic Weaving


Traffic weaving is practiced by both cyclists and motorbikes alike. This is when a two wheeled vehicle does things like weaving in and around a line of slow moving traffic, or making a third lane when none exists. The legalities on this practice vary from state to state and country to country. It is not a safe practice and is not recommended even when legal. Drivers will not know how to anticipate your next action if you are weaving around cars. It is better to wait in traffic than to jump unexpectedly in and out of it. Along those lines, it is neither legal or safe to weave on and off the sidewalks to get around slow moving traffic. Just do not do it.


Quick Thinking


There are times when you are cycling that the unexpected will happen and you will have to react. There could be a sudden obstacle in your path or you encounter unpredictable behavior from someone you are sharing the road or path with. In this case, do a quick check, if you have time, before you swerve to avoid. If you have cyclists behind you and you need to do a quick break, try to let them know verbally, if you do have time to signal.  It is important to realize that this does not count as being an unpredictable cyclist in these cases.

So there you have it, a few tips on being predictable on the roads.

Is there anything I missed about being a predictable cyclist? Feel free to leave it in the comments below.