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, 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 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 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

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.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Taking the Lane: Sharing is Caring!

My exercise adventures have stayed more bipedal than bi-pedaling this summer, so I wanted to take the opportunity to discuss sharing the road with cyclists from the point of view of a driver. I may not be riding much right now, but I’m sure as heck an advocate for those who do. A little knowledge goes a long way in staying safe on the roads.

Crosswalks-it’s illegal for cyclists to ride through a crosswalk. You’re probably thinking, “hey! Then how the heck do I get to the other side?”. Well, silly, I don’t mean riding ACROSS it, but in it. Trying to be clever and scooting over to the crosswalk to get through a light puts you in the flow of traffic, out, and then back in again. Getting in the flow of traffic as a cyclist is a scary thing for me, so I’m like the Griswold family stuck in the roundabout for hours once I get in there. I can’t imagine wanting to bounce in and out, but hey-turns out, it’s just a bad idea. Bonus pain points? You’re the one legally at fault if you got hit in the crosswalk. Talk about insult to injury!

Right is always right, right?-Unless you’re one of those crazy Europeans, you’re pretty used to traffic movement on the right side of the road. Most of the time, this applies to cyclists as well as cars. Any exceptions to the rule? Always! Stay as near as possible to the right side of the roadway unless:
--you’re passing another cyclist or vehicle
--you’re about to make a legal left turn
--you’re on the paved shoulder of a highway (and if you are, kudos to you. I’ve tried it a few times and just can’t shake that inherent death feeling).
--it’s reasonably necessary to avoid unsafe conditions (hey, look out for that giant pothole!)
--the lane you’re in is too narrow for both vehicle and bicycle to share (go ahead and hog that lane-it’s your right!)
--if you’re on a multilane one way street where the posted speed limit is less than 35, you may hop onto the European side of the road and ride away.

Keep your equipment maintained-sounds pretty obvious, right? But a night or two of being too lazy to charge back up your rear red light or front headlight can make for one surprisingly dangerous return home. The city of Lincoln requires a rear red light when riding at night. Always a good idea to make yourself as visible as possible, and when riding in dusk or dark conditions, you need all the help you can get. So throw on your loudest cycling kit, fire up those lights, and keep yourself safe.And may I suggest this rave-ready bike mod? 

On your left! YOUR LEFT! ON YOUR LEFT!-This one deals more with sharing the road with pedestrians. I’ll admit that I’m on the bike path more as a runner than a cyclist these days, and my feelings on passing seem to be more in favor of whatever activity I’m doing. Yeah, I’m a hypocrite. But it’s courteous to announce your presence with the ring of a bell, a polite “passing on  your left”, or tire tracks across their back. OK, maybe not that third, but sometimes it sure feels that way! As a runner, I can tell you that even if the yell startles me, I still prefer to know that you’re there instead of just zooming past me. But, pedestrians, you’re not off the hook. If you’re in a group, and you get the signal, don’t startle, don’t stand your ground, move over. It’s super frustrating to have to slow down, or even stop, because a gabbing group of people can’t hear your repeated cries for your rightful space on the path.

Play nice!-The simplest rule seems to be the hardest one to follow. I know we all got taught to share in preschool, but those days are far in the rearview mirror and need a reminder every once in a while. The road is a big place. There’s room for cyclists and drivers, I promise. 3 feet needs to be maintained by the driver as the space allowed a cyclist. I have seen both sides of that fence-I’ve been on my bike and had drivers disregard my personal space so bad this weeble wobbled but luckily didn’t fall down, though there was definitely a strong wind trying to knock me over! I’ve also been the driver, and had a situation where there’s oncoming traffic, the lane is narrow, and I’m just struggling to give the cyclist the space they deserve. 99% of the time, there’s no excuse not to give the cyclist all the room they need.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? --- The Cornhusker State Games Gravel Grinder

A little over a week before the Cornhusker State Games Gravel Grinder I began to seriously entertain doing it.   I had a decent amount of 50+ mile rides and one 61 mile ride.  Looking toward Gravel Worlds in August, I thought this might be a chance to see how well I could manage a long gravel ride. Discussions with Skip (husband and frequent riding partner) evolved into a plan for him to ride it with me so that when Gravel Worlds rolls around, he could race it and not be worried about me.  Skip has raced long gravel races for over 10 years.  This would give me the opportunity to tryout a long gravel race with a seasoned gravel rider as my domestique.  This race was 112 miles which would be over 50 miles more than I had ever ridden. I tried Cyclocross for the first time at age 45, why not a long gravel race at 46?!?!

Heat is my biggest enemy.  Being a ginger with a low sweating ability makes it difficult for my body to deal with the blazing sun and humid heat.  In preparation, I updated my helmet to an all white and light grey one, got a sleeveless white mesh jersey, white gloves, and Pearl Izumi In-R-Cool shorts that are mostly white with a panel of black that is not supposed to absorb heat.    I wanted all that heat to just bounce right off me!  Side benefit: the white, with pink and black accents on everything matches my bike extremely well!

Arriving at the race on Sunday morning, I felt pretty confident but was nervous.  I had my ,“cool kit”, insulated bottles, plenty of bars, endurolytes and my own personal soigneur.  I felt good about my chances.  Funny, I was pretty cold at the 6am start but didn't want to carry my jacket later and knew the heat would come! The race started and it seemed like to me people were rolling out really fast.   I was still trying to wrap my head around the fact that this was actually happening and I was doing it.

The first checkpoint at Wagon Train came quickly at 23 miles in.  Hey, this gravel racing thing is very doable.

The second checkpoint at the Last Chance Bar in Burr at mile 48 still had me in good spirits. It had warmed up but wasn’t really hot yet.  I felt really strong and still like this is not that big of a deal.  Just pay attention to the cue sheets, reload bottles at checkpoints, and keep eating.  

And then things changed.  

The minimum maintenance roads and the topography were an evil I had not yet really met.  I was expecting to meet the evil Heat at some point, but this new foe was trying to break my spirit before Heat even got the chance.  Skip tried to use these opportunities to talk me through the best ways to use momentum in climbing and other climbing strategies.  I can now, a few days post race, appreciate it as all very valuable information and I did make use of it later in the day. At the time I was getting so tired of the up and down, going through the whole range of my gears repeatedly and those stupid dirt roads, I was angry at how hard this course was.  Skip’s encouragement or advice was often met with comments from me like “Shut up”, “Don’t talk to me” or “Shut the fuck up”.  Honestly, I didn’t think he could hear me since I was several yards behind him and the wind and gravel was loud, plus Skip’s hearing is not great.  Not the case.  When I admitted to him the day after the race, what I had been saying, he said, “Oh, I know.  I heard all of that.” Oops.  He had been a very patient man, who is not always know for his patience.  In hindsight, I find it hysterical  that I did that.  That’s not how I normally operate. That just shows how much the race was getting under my skin.

So, from that point on, I was a tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde depending on the type of road and the climbing required.  My patient guide just keep offering words of encouragement and advice despite the verbal abuse he was subjected to.  Until I actually used the advice given, I sometimes had to walk my bike up a hill since I had tried to mash it out instead of spinning.  As the evil Heat made its appearance I had settled into my suffering and still needed to sometimes walk up the final part of a climb because I know my heat limits.  Despite me following along with the cue sheets sometimes the target of my cussing pretended the suffering would be over sooner than it really would be.  As the mileage got higher and higher though, I appreciated what I was achieving.  I hated a lot of it but never really entertained the idea of quitting.  I knew physically I could finish I just needed to give myself the breaks my body needed to do it. Skip said afterwards that he knew I could do it but wondered if I would let myself finish it.  

There was a mobile water station at mile 68ish.  I can’t really even remember where that fell in the midst of my angst.  I remember the cold water though.  The checkpoint at mile 80 had ice cold orange slices that tasted like gold.  After that checkpoint I wanted to feel like I was in the home stretch but there was still a lot of race left and the cross wind was going to continue for a while.  

I hated the race and whined and complained every time I could see huge rolling hills in the horizon and knew we wouldn’t be turning anytime soon or another Minimum Maintenance sign. Patient, kind words continued.  On the downhills when I stopped hating I sometimes got teary realizing I was actually doing this and often thought of the phrase "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?" from Animal House.

Finally, we got to Princeton and turned onto the familiar Homestead Trail with a tailwind.  I felt reinvigorated and dropped Skip in my full Bike Path Hero mode.  I liked the race again.  Now, I felt like I was in the home stretch.  Skip knew otherwise as he knew what was waiting for us once we refilled bottles in Roca.  In our race postmortem, Skip pointed out that I should have been using that section to recover. Noted.  Bennet Rd completely kicked my ass, I hated the race more than ever but I knew I could finish.  There were lots of shade breaks and probably a lot of complaining. I dumped a lot of water on myself. Still lots of words of encouragement, advise and patience from my sweet husband.

In my own defense, I did repeatedly thank Skip for doing the race with me and for being patient with me (and apparently my mouth).

Finally, we turned into the neighborhood to weave through signaling the end of the race.  Wow, I had done it!  We rolled up to the finish a little over 11 hours after starting.  The after party was over.  The few volunteers that remained cheered our arrival, marked our arrival times on their clipboards and handed us participation medals.  I sat down in the shade and said to Skip, “Shouldn’t I have gotten a different metal?"  There were only 3 women in my category, so a finish pretty much guaranteed a medal.  As Skip went to get the car, I walked over and inquired about how I placed in my category.  I saw the volunteer write “SILVER” next to my name and got a different metal.  An apology was given for not remembering that. I didn’t care, I just wanted my medal!  I earned it!  And we were off to change and to watch my son’s CSG soccer match.

The accomplishment didn’t really sink in until Monday morning as I was riding into work and seeing other people on the trail.  I had a huge smile on my face thinking, “you guys have no idea what I accomplished yesterday.”  Put my medal on my desk and basked in its glory all day.  I went for a slow ride Monday evening with Skip to work and was amazed that really where I felt the race was the heels of my hands and my forearms.

Here’s my true race recap:

Strava reported 9hrs 19mins moving time compared to 11hrs 07min of total elapsed time so I stopped a lot. That 9:19 also includes several walks up the end of climbs.  Average speed of 12.1mph which would have also been lowered by the walking.  I'm very happy with my effort going 50 miles longer than I ever had!

My final thoughts:
  • I can finish Gravel Worlds and will try not to cuss at those around me. :-)
  • I will listen to the advice of people with experience and actually use their advice.
  • I am in great cardiovascular and cycling shape. I can expect my body to do really difficult things.
  • My husband showed a level of patience and support that was amazing and touching.
  • I am a badass.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Boom Boom Pow!

Boom Boom Pow is an all-women's adventure racing squad that's part of the Sheclismo family. Stacey, Tina, Jeri, and Char are currently the first and only all-female squad to compete in the 4-day Cowboy Tough race.

They've made it through the first night and are going strong. You can track them here, under team #500.

Happy trails to BBP, and to all the women taking the wheels, mats, lakes, and trails this weekend, in the Cornhusker State Games, the Rapha Women's 100 or whatever other amazing adventures they might be on.