Thursday, September 18, 2014

Taking the lane: Wearing What Works

Commuting rules my wardrobe. There are several ways to deal with the “what to wear on the ride to work” dilemma. You may be one who likes to leave clothes at work to change into. Others take clothes with them. (you had best not forget your shoes or bra) In these cases you can commute in kit or whatever you're comfortable riding in. There are even special suit panniers for keeping your clothes looking fresh and wrinkle-free. Some of us, however, can't or don't want to change when we get to work. Telephone booths are no longer available (what would Clark Kent do?) and restrooms are not always an option. I don't like having to slink past receptionists looking for a place to change for maybe only a one hour job after which I have to change back, repeated several times a day. In the face of these options, commuting in my work clothes is the best choice. So what to do to arrive in a presentable state? This varies depending on the time of year, but there are some some things that are constant.
zip-open pleat
The first being sweat. Pack a tiny towel. Summer, winter, it doesn't matter. If you are putting on some speed or have hills, or any kind of distance, you're going to get a little, or a lot, sweaty. Wicking fabrics are a big help, especially in winter, as you don't want damp fabrics next to your body to chill you. It's actually a big deal in Summer too, with air conditioning turned down so low you always need a long sleeved shirt or even a light sweater or jacket to put on over your first layer, after you've cooled down. Also, prints show sweat less than solids. I wear light weight fabrics that dry quickly in summer, and try to avoid very light pant colors too. There's just too much bike grease and dirt out there to stay looking clean. Of course you want to wear something that gives you good freedom of movement. Avoid anything that constricts movement, or gets caught in your chain or spokes. If wearing wider pant legs, you'll want to roll up your right leg, or use a pedal strap. If very wide, use on both legs. I've never had much luck with skirts, as they always work their way up my thighs unless I clip a weight on, or get damaged in my spokes if very full. Some people do manage to do this well, but I haven't figured it out to my liking. 
reflective side seam
Be aware that if you commute a lot, you may wear out the seat of your pants. I've worn the fuzz off of the back side of at least one pair of corduroys that I live in in the winter. I wear them a lot as they are warmer and I don't like to wear long underwear (too hot indoors). If it's very cold I wear windpants over the top. As far as wear and tear, you may  have to launder those sweaty clothes more. Don't think that you won't be sweating in cooler weather. One of the the biggest mistakes people make in cool and cold weather commuting is over dressing. (Exception: hands) Remember the mantra- dress for 10-15 minutes into your ride. Wear breathable layers and a lighter weight jacket. Few things feel so awful on the bike as being overheated and sweaty in the winter. It's nothing like how you might dress to go on a walk. You might feel a little cool to start out, but it won't last long if you're working up a sweat. Finally, there is more bicycle specific clothing being developed all the time. Pants with reflective seams to seen be rolled up, skirts with zip open pleats, more stretch. I've even worn chamois liners under my pants when I've known I was going to have an especially long day on the bike.
                                                                                                 reflective plaid
So whether you take a change of clothes, keep them at work, or wear them, find a solution that works for you. Don't let clothes keep you from commuting in all weather. There's always a way to make them work for you if you work at it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Pre-flight check

For a few of our Sheclismas, tonight marks their first ever race. For others, it's the first of the season -- which means a refresher on what you need to do to get ready for the whistle is in order.

1. Eat right

Race day is not the day to experiment with new and wild foods. Eat a regular, not complicated to digest meal about 3-4 hours before the race. Anywhere less than two hours before, eating is not recommended. You'll probably taste it while you're racing...ewwww.

2. Sip that liquid

Drink water or juice or hydration mix in those two hours. It doesn't need to be much, otherwise you'll just have to pee a lot.

3. Pack your bags

Run through a quick checklist of what you need. In addition to your annual license, one-day receipt, or cash to pay day-of registration, you'll need to bring some stuff with you.

Must haves:
Cycling clothes (aka kit), and don't forget a sports bra!

Good to haves:
Water bottle
Bike tools like a small multi-tool, extra tube, pump
Recovery beverage, snack

4. Get to the race as early as you can, check in, and pre-ride

Once you get to the race site, check in at the registration table, find or make some buddies, and pre-ride the course. (Make sure there's not a race going on first!) Depending on how much time you have before your race, you can do this in street clothes. Scope out each turn and obstacle, and go back and do any sections that give you trouble a second time.

5. Pin up and prepare

When you check in, the race organizers will give you a number to pin on, and will tell you which side of your body it needs to go on. Make sure the bottom edge of the number runs along your side, with the top edge of the number along your spine. Think of it like this: if you're stretched out over the handlebars, could someone standing next to you read the number? The officials and announcers don't want to do headstands to figure out who you are. Pinning on numbers is where having a buddy is helpful!

6. Warm up

Between an hour and half an hour before your race, find a spot where you can sprint a couple times to warm up your legs. (This can be part of your pre-riding the course, too.) Try to get one short effort where you get that "oh goodness, my legs feel heavy" feeling in your legs. Spin around a little bit, sip a little water.

7. Mental zone

In the last half hour before your race, get in the mental zone. If possible, find a spot where you can be kind of alone (this can be hard, so don't stress about it -- some people find putting on music to be helpful). Take some deep breaths, and visualize times you've felt really strong on the bike. Remember you're awesome. You're going to have fun. It's going to be hard. But you're doing this, and showing up to the start line is more than most people can say they've done. Own it.

8. Line up

Fifteen minutes before your race, you should make your way to the starting area. Ditch any unwanted items you don't want to carry with you. High five your friends and be welcoming and introduce yourself to the other women that might not know anyone there. When the race official calls you to the line, pick your spot. Breathe deep. You got this.


10. You did it. YAY!

You raced! Congratulations! Stay around the finish line and congratulate your fellow racers. Hugs and high fives and words of praise are encouraged. If you went head-to-head on the course, leave that energy out there and revel in how fun that was, even if it got frustrating.

Once the racers are in, spin out your legs with an easy pedal around the parking lot. Grab a recovery beverage or snack. Go spectate, and especially if there's a more advanced category racing, watch them go through spots you thought were difficult.

I hope it went well, and that you found a little list of things that were awesome and others that you want to work on. Get a good night's sleep, and start to get psyched for the next race!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Cyclocross racing starts Wednesday

The Nebraska 2014 cyclocross season starts this Wednesday at Seacrest Park in Lincoln!

Get registered now for the first in a series of four Wednesday evening races at parks across the city.

Youth and Juniors race for FREE, thanks to some excellent fundraising in partnership with the No Coast Derby Girls -- and we're over the moon that there are already FOUR junior women registered for the 9-12-year-old category for tomorrow!

Discounted registration closes at 9 PM tonight:

Monday, September 15, 2014

Stepping Up, Getting Disappointed, and Reassessing the Situation

Elisabeth is in the process of moving from Lincoln to Philadelphia. Two days after arriving, she lined up for her first East Coast cyclocross race.

On Wednesday, I packed up my dear friend Corey's Honda Element with a cornucopia of important things, snagged my bestie and fellow Sheclisma Berly, and hit the road for two days of cross-country travel to Philadelphia. After spending a good chunk of the summer in Philly, I decided to make the move for real, and after completing the editing of a feature length documentary on Tuesday, it was time to make the move. One last night of Star City CX cross practice on Wednesday evening -- where my awesome 9-year-old buddy Adrienne wished me well in PA and told me to "go show those ladies who's boss," and we hit the road early Thursday morning.

Last night of CX practice at Piedmont Park in Lincoln. Feeling good chasing the fast dudes.
We headed to Granogue on Sunday morning. This is a race with a storied past. It takes place on a private estate owned by the DuPont family in northern Delaware. It's been a UCI race. It was gone for a couple years. This year, it was back, and after pre-riding the course with some local friends, it was back in a reportedly far more challenging design.

Number style. 
View up the hill to the watchtower.

The technical features of the course were amazing. Off-camber stretches, some turns I could really rail, a little run-up, and fun sections through the woods. But then there was the climbing. A couple long, punchy climbs, however, had me immediately certain I had a very overgeared singlespeed. Thank goodness I'd at least switched to the 42x19 from the 42x18 I'd been training on...

Decidedly overgeared
We watched the 3/4 women race, and I definitely had a bit of regretsies registering for the elite race instead. It was awesome, though, to watch my friends crush it. After they were done, I changed up my tire pressure and took another couple laps of the course. I'm still running clinchers, and there were a few rocky sections of the course that had me nervous about running low tire pressure, but the grip was so good everywhere else that I felt like I should risk it.

After another race was through, my amazing sweet friend Rachel and I kitted up and did a little spin around. Rachel and I got to know each other this summer, and she is just a wonderful human. Both of us are new to racing this level, so we tried to relax each other on the ride'n'chat. Try not to get stressed, just have fun.

We lined up and the whistle blew so fast I was barely prepared and did not have a fast start. With one steep climb right away, though, I knew I'd fall back, even with the surge of adrenaline in my legs. It was just too steep for my gearing. I made it all the way up -- what I would give to know what sort of wattage I was putting out to make it up that beast -- and had lost contact with the group by a couple seconds. But I was not going to be satisfied with that. Coming through a few turns more cleanly, I made my way back into the mix and rode really cleanly through the off-camber downhill, only to be caught while spinning out on the long, slow downhill straightaway. I stayed right on her wheel, though, and passed a couple women on the run-up and through the pavement section, where I really put on the gas. The barriers -- which we skipped on the first lap -- were on an uphill, and coming back onto the bike went right into the top half of that punchy climb at the start. I was so deep in the red that I just couldn't stay on top of the gear and had to dismount. Emily came around me at this point and gave a nice word of encouragement in my misery, and I hopped back on and chased her.

I knew where to push, with my technical skills being allowed to shine in certain sections, and with good cheering sections scattered around the course, I was feeling pretty good about hanging in there and racing hard, not caring that I was nowhere near the front of the field. I wasn't in last, and even if I had been, I was racing as hard as I could and I belonged in this race.

Then, after coming through a muddy set of turns, I hit the rocky dip into the run-up at full gas. PFFFFTTTTT. I came to a quick stop as I heard my rim clanging against the rocks, just before getting to a run-up where I knew I could cut time into Emily's lead on me. Damnit. DAMN. I WAS HAVING SO MUCH FUN.

I had nothing in the mechanical pit. My race was over. I walked, defeated, out of the woods to the run-up. Spectators looked on as I lifted my bike, resigned, and crossed the tape. "Pinch flat." I went off to the side, where Willem found me. And I'm not going to lie, I tossed my bike down and cried a little. I didn't want it to end so soon. I was so, so frustrated to be done racing, no matter how overgeared I was or how much 3 more laps would've hurt. No matter how far back I was, I did not want to quit. I don't do that.

Best remedy for a pinch flat? Maybe. 
I've been so lucky as to never have a mechanical take me out of a race before. I've watched it so many times with friends, and now I have a much greater degree of empathy for how frustrating it is. (Rob Livermore, looking at you, buddy.) The rest of the day, through watching the elite men and on the drive home, was spent with lots of thoughts and talk both about setting up tubeless and debating on going back to gears. I love racing singlespeed. But where would I have been with gears? Was this course an anomaly? Would swapping for a 39t up front do the trick? If I had a geared bike with discs, I could use Willem's pit wheels...and and and and. The amount of factors and decisions and money I could spend...Sigh.

Corn Hecklers: Better than Cornhuskers. 
This morning, I woke up remembering moments in the race that I was really proud of. Pushing so hard up that climb and reconnecting with the field like that. Sighting turns down the hill and seeing I was doing it better than others. Not giving up when I easily could. And really, being so deeply frustrated by a flat taking me out of the race when I was nowhere near in contention for even a top ten placing. I could've shrugged it off. But that I cared about staying in there means something to me.

This weekend, I'll head down to Baltimore to race at Charm City, where a UCI field means I'll drop into the B's field for the women. I have a flat to fix, and some decisions to make about other changes in the stable. Stay tuned...

Public Input Session on Bike Share in Lincoln

Attend in person or fill out the survey below! 

The public is invited to share their thoughts about a potential city bike share system in two ways:

                     Attend a meeting from 5 to 6 p.m. Thursday, September 18 in the City Council Chambers, 555 S. 10th Street.  K√§ren Haley, Executive Director at Indianapolis Cultural Trail, will present background information on bike share programs and answer questions.
                     Take a survey and view an interactive map at (keyword: bike share survey).  

A bike share system allows individuals to borrow shared bicycles on a short-term basis.  The program could  allow people to borrow bikes from one point and return them to another.  Over the past six months, City officials, UNL students and administration, bike enthusiasts and other community leaders have discussed how a bike share system could benefit Lincoln.

“It’s exciting to see bikeshare expand around the country as a healthy and affordable transportation option,” said Haley.  “In my experience with Pacers Bikeshare program, the people using the bikes are both experienced and novice riders and use the system for transportation, exercise and recreation.”

Kellee Van Bruggen, Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Department, said bike share programs are growing in popularity, with systems opening in most of the nation’s medium and large cities, including Omaha.  She said many cities view bike share systems as urban amenities that play a role in attracting young professionals and improving tourist access to attractions.  She said they also can strengthen a city’s public transportation system and encourage healthy lifestyles through active commuting.

For more information, contact Van Bruggen at 402-441-6363 or

555 South 10th Street, Suite 213, Lincoln, NE 68508, 402-441-7491

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Kellee Van Bruggen, Planning Department, 402-441-6363

Friday, September 12, 2014

Taking the Lane: I wear Spandex sometimes

What do you wear to ride your bike to work? This may be one of the most common questions I get asked by someone new to the joy of riding a bike for transportation. There are also countless articles on the internet and each one seems to have a slightly different answer on what the best commuting wear is. Sometimes the difference of opinions can be quite intense. We at Taking the Lane believe that the best thing to wear on your bike is what ever you walk out the door in, however there are a few aspects to keep in mind as far as comfort and coolness are concerned. (Let's face it, if you do not feel cool in what you have on, you will enjoy the experience less.) Over the next couple of weeks, we are going to be really analyzing several aspects of commuting clothing to you make the best choice for you, your bike, and your commute length.

When one thinks of competitive cyclists, one things of spandex. Those bright, skin tight ensembles with a wedge of padding around the tush, otherwise known as a cycling kit. They seem a little silly, until you don your first kit and go for a ride. It feel like you are wearing your comfiest pajamas if they were made of aerodynamic sports fabric instead of flannel. It really is the most comfortable way to ride, especially on long trips. So for some, it becomes a natural choice to wear while commuting.
Commuting through the ice. Just kidding.
Photo by Piper Williams
There are many benefits to riding in kit. It is more comfortable for cycling. This is especially useful if you have a long commute. (I work with individuals who commute 20 miles or more each way and they all wear kit.) There is no danger of having a pant leg get stuck in your chain. The fabric is sweat, wicking and quick drying. And, kit can look really cool, especially if you are using more a performance bike to commute. Of course "coolness" can be location depended. In my area casual commuting is viewed as cooler in London, the actual city, but kit reigns supreme in the London suburbs.

All of us rocking the Sheclismo Kit
photo by Piper Williams
There are downsides of wearing kit. One being that it requires a change of clothing when you arrive your destination. This can mean more to carry. Cycling kits can be on the pricey side. (Nice ones start at $100 and go up from there.) Also, kits, more specifically, cycling shorts, really shouldn't be worn too many times between washing, necessitating purchasing multiple.  Spandex clad cyclists sometimes have a reputation of being snobbish, although I have not seen research data that can confirm any validity to this stereotype.

Is wearing a kit right for you? Well that depends on several different factors,  the most important being, do you want to commute in kit?

And a few other questions to ask yourself: Does it make your ride more comfortable? Do you find it more compatible with your bike? (If you a have nice cruiser bike, it may not be the most idea option.) Does the length of your commute justify the added hassle of changing? A 2 mile commute might be a little short, but that is personal preference. Do you feel cool?

Also, if you want to rock the Sheclismo kit, be sure to get your order in by the 21st this month.

As for me, I sometimes commute in kit or spandex, especially if my ride is longer or weather conditions are adverse and I sometimes ride more casually. Stay tune of the next couple weeks to learn about a few other styles, a bike fashion tips from the experts on our writing team. Don't worry casual commuters, we will write something for you too. And if you need shopping tips for any bike style, we got you covered there too.

But remember, what is most important is that you rock whatever you wear, or don't wear on the bike.

Naked Portland Bike Ride

Friday, September 5, 2014