Monday, June 30, 2014

Got kids? Will travel! Part 1.

Got kids? Will travel! Part 1.

We have come a L O N G way from the days when the only child carrying option for riding a bicycle with mom or dad was a hard molded plastic car seat type seat that attached behind the adult's seat. The ability to ride as a family is easier than ever, allowing multiple ages of children to discover the joys of biking and doing so in comfort and style!

In this first post in a series of child portage options, I'm going to focus on the types of child carriers commonly referred to as "trailers" or "tag-a-longs". These commonly attach to an adult bicycle in many ways, usually either at the seatpost or at the chain stay/rear axle. They can carry from 1-2 children comfortably behind mom or dad in a trailing or "trailer" type fashion(hence the name).

The child bicycle trailer, boxcar type:
These trailers sit low to the ground and are made out of aluminum bars with nylon & plastic enclosures. They are made to suit children ages 6 months to 5 years and typically seat 1-2 children. They have adjustable 5 point harness straps and often have other safety features specific to their design, helmets should be worn by the children when in use. Places to put snacks and drinks, along with a small diaper bag or purse, and perhaps a small bag of groceries, can usually be placed behind the children's seating. Since these sit low, they also come with a safety flag that makes the trailer visible through car window height.....USE IT! It is very easy for vehicles to run over what they can't see.

The recumbent bicycle trailer, tag along:
Weehoo iGo is new to the scene with their more "combination" trailer tag along that rides in a recumbent position(low, like a box car type trailer) but can be pedaled by older kids like a tag-along. This trailer is NOT enclosed like a box car type trailer but doesn't have the typical bicycle seat & handlebars of the tag along. More like an in-between option. It typically will have a small "cargo area" behind the child seat that doubles as a rear wheel cover that can carry bags and small items. Since these sit low, they come with a trailer flag(again...USE IT!) and helmets are required with the open concept seating system. 5 point harness straps keep the child firmly seated. One child per seat but these can be configured to use more than one seat in the system, seated stadium style.
The tag along, drivetrain style:
These trailers sit higher, usually more like a typical child bike height, and have bike seats, handlebars, pedals, chains, and a drivetrain for the child to assist in powering the bike ride. These are meant for older children(not infants/small toddlers) and do not have seat restraint harness systems or enclosures. Typically, a child would ride this type of trailer during that period when they almost don't need training wheels on their own bike OR can ride their own bike with 2 wheels but just can't make it very far mileage wise on their own. Like a tandem but the second bike is more their size, gearing, and geometry. These typically seat one child per tag along but can be purchased in dualies(2 child). Helmets are required with this open and self holding on system(non harness), flags are often supplied with this system as well(USE IT!)

Tail-gaitor/Follow Me tandem bar attaches child bike to adult bike:
This system is basically a bar that attaches to your child's existing bike's head tube and then attaches to your bike's seat post or rear axle. Like a tag along but the ability to use your child's bike during the ride unattached or attached. You supply the bikes on both ends!

As you can see, just with trailers, you have many options! Parents no longer have to leave their children at home with a sitter or give up biking during the child rearing years. In Part 2 of the series, I will be addressing child seats that attach to the adult's bike, effectively making a single bike a "2 seater". No third or forth wheels, what options do you have when you want to share a 2 wheeler? Stay tuned!

~Happy Trails!
Jamie g.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Taking the Lane: Beyond Sweat

Here in Nebraska the months between the dangers of frostbite and heatstroke are few. We are hardy folk however, and it doesn't keep some of us from riding through it all, though I do prefer those in-between months. The five minutes it took to take off winter gear is now used cooling down and mopping up, so it's all the same in the end. I sweat in the winter when I'm riding too, but obviously more copiously in warm weather.

Just what is it about sweat that tends to freak people out? Is it that it looks like you've been working? Outside? That you might stink? Is it “unprofessional”? That last one is what my husband was told by his boss in the 70's when he arrived to work by bike. I hope we're past that now. Besides the perceived issues with sweat aesthetics, there really are potential problems with coming in to an over air conditioned (in my view) building from the hot outdoors well dampened by your body's attempt to cool itself. Yes, if I come in directly to start work looking like Mother Of Swamp Beast people do look alarmed. My blouse may be soaked entirely through to the skin, I may have a wet saddle print emblazoned on my behind. It's happened. I sometimes have a tight schedule and I have to power through to a distant appointment at top speed. These circumstances require thinking ahead. If you don't have to worry about arriving business casual or looking calm, cool, and collected, you have it made. If you have a shower at your disposal, count yourself as in commuter heaven. Many keep clothes at the office to change into or bring them along. There are even special suit panniers for that purpose. I'm giving advice especially for those who can't/don't change upon arrival. For you there are baby wipes or a possible pit-wash.

Clothing: If I know I have one of the above days coming up, I like to carry a change of top or an over-blouse, deodorant (my friends swear I don't stink, but you never know), and a small micro fiber towel. Actually, I always try to have the towel handy. I also wear a very light and airy white shirt during the hours of 10 to 3, but more on that later.

Prints hide sweat more than solids. You may find you like a layered approach. Sleeveless or short sleeved top to ride in, light blouse over when cooled down. This hides any sweat on first layer, as well as keeps you from getting chilled. If your bra is soggy, you might change that at some point, if you know that to be a problem and you've packed one. If you feel you're getting chilled by the over-air conditioning that can be a factor. Your clothes should be, of course, light weight and somewhat loose if you're trying to stay cool. Wicking fabrics are great in the winter, but in the summer especially, they hold odor so I do wear a lot of cotton. If it's thin I find it dries out fairly quickly. One thing about light colored pants, however. I can NEVER keep bike grease or dirt off of them, even when rolled up.

Hydration and sun care: Unless I know I have access to water or a shorter commute I always try to keep water with me, even just for errands. It can also be handy for wetting down the lightweight cotton shirt I commute in when the sun is strong. When it's ridiculously hot I wet the shirt down under a faucet or with a water bottle and put it on. Instant air conditioning that lasts 10 minutes or so, until it's dried out. If you're out between 10 and 3, do use sunscreen on the places not covered up. You may be surprised just how soon you're having to have those funny looking spots frozen off otherwise. Besides, I think it actually feels cooler to not have the sun directly hitting your skin, as long as the over-shirt is loose and light in color and weight. If I'm riding during those hours and not working I just use sunscreen and not the shirt.

Hair: Keep it simple and off of your neck. I know some like dry shampoo. I keep it back and tolerate a certain amount of helmet hair.

Most importantly experiment and find what works for you. Don't let sweat or the fear of it stand in the way of you enjoying your commute. You sweat less when riding slower so you might opt to just allow yourself more time to savor the trip and arrive less damp in the process.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Taking the Lane: Embrace Your Sweaty Glow

Perspiration, glow, shine, or just plain sweat. No matter what you call it, the function is the same. Sweat is how your body thermoregulates and it is a literal life saver. (Now, I am about to get a little nerdy.) The human body has two different types of sweat glands, the eccrine glands and the apocrine glands. The eccrine glands are all over the human body and produce an odorless substance consisting of mostly water and salt. The apocrine glands are located primarily under the arms and the genital regions. These produce an odorless, oily substance consisting of water, proteins and lipids. This will produce an odor when exposed to bacteria. Now that the days are warmer, you will experience both of these kinds of sweat while commuting into work or just riding in general, which can present a challenge if you are trying show up to work daisy fresh.

Sweat Gland Locations (image from

If you are a mild to moderate sweater or the weather is cool, you have two options, avoid sweating or embrace sweating. If you are like me and are a heavy sweater, you really only have one option, embrace your glow. Since, I have never successfully managed to avoid sweating on my commute (even in the dead of winter), I will give you advice on making friends with your eccrine and apocrine glands. The easiest method to deal with sweat is to shower after arriving to work, however, for many of us, this is not an option. I will be writing the remainder of the article under the assumption that showers are not available. So let us consider how we can embrace our sweat without embracing any unpleasant olfactory side effects.

From Sweaty Swamp Beast Look (Picture by Piper Williams)
It is generally considered to be unprofessional to smell like a gym when arrive to work, unless you work in manual labor field. Even if you sweat profusely this can easily be avoided. If you recall, sweat is odorless and will only smell if exposed to bacteria. If you know you will sweat on your morning commute, shower in the morning before you leave. This will ensure that your skin is clean and less likely to have odor producing bacteria. Also apply deodorant and/or antiperspirant before you leave to further reduce any undesirable smells. (If you use natural deodorants or make your own, try one with tea tree oil which is naturally antimicrobial.) When you arrive to work, make sure you have left early enough, to give you enough time to do a little clean up. In this, a quick drying microfiber towel can be your best friend. My clean up normally consists of washing my face, a quick pat down, reapplying deodorant, a little beauty routine, and dealing with my hair. All of this I can do in the bathroom in under 5 minutes. A few notes on if you have long hair that has become wet from sweat. I have a had a lot of luck with a little dry shampoo, styling oil, and a quick brush. However, I have thin hair that dries quickly. You may find that learning a few quick updos that will hide that your hair is wet, or storing a blow dyer at work to do a quick touch up and give you a professional look may be a better fit for you and your hair type. Now, you can go and sit and your desk and no one will be the wiser that you looked like a sweaty swamp beast when you arrived. (Okay, so that is normally what I look like in the mornings.)

To Physics Grad Student (Image from RHUL)

All commuters have two basic clothing options: commute in what you will wear to work, or bring a change of clothes. (I am sure that both of these options will be expanded in much greater detail in subsequent Taking the Lane blogs.) Throughout the year, I will engage in both practices. When it is cooler and darker and my commute is shorter (~6 miles one way) I often choose to commute in what I will wear to work. Since I am a graduate student, this is typically jeans and some sort of shirt. I often choose a darker shirt that will hide how much I have perspired on the bike ride. I am also a big fan of merino wool and tech shirts. These wick the sweat away from your skin and if you are savvy about your selection, they can look quite professional. Merino wool is also naturally antimicrobial and will not smell.  In the warmer months when my commute grows in length (13+ miles one way), I choose to commute in cycling clothes that wick the sweat away and change into work clothes at the office. I bring in a pair or two of jeans at beginning of the week, leave them in a locker overnight, and take them home at the end of the week to be washed. Each day I bring in a fresh shirt and undergarments in my bag. The important things is finding the routine that works best for you and your work environment. (One further note: if you choose to commute in your regular clothes, it might be worth considering carrying a fresh pair of undergarments, including a bra if you wear one, as most of your apocrine glands are located near or under these articles of clothing. This can be a quick and easy way of freshening up without a full change of clothing, which is especially useful if you have a longer ride.)

Looks refreshing? Be sure to get lots of it. Image from
Sweat is mostly comprised of water so if you sweat a great deal on your ride into your work, hydrating becomes very important. It has been well researched that hydrated people concentrate better. So here is your friendly reminder to make sure you are drinking enough water during these warmer months. Also, it is important to know if you are a salty sweater or not. Salty sweater loose a higher than average amount of salt and electrolytes through perspiration. A few signs that you are a salty sweater is that your skin will feel chalky after a work out, clothes that you have sweat in will have white streaks, and your sweat stings your eyes. I am a very salty sweater and I have found that I sometimes need an electrolyte boost when I arrive at work, especially if it is very warm outside. This for me is normally either a sports drink or coconut water. If I do not get this boost, I will often become tired and listless. Listening to your body is the best way to figure out if plain water will be enough to meet your hydration needs.

One further note. I have surprised more than one person that I do not shower after cycling in, especially in the summer. Their initial reaction has been one of being slightly grossed out. This is a good time to point out that sweat does not smell unless exposed to bacteria, and that until they asked, the did not know that you weren't showering. Sweating is a natural body function. That is all part of embracing your glow.

Happy sweaty riding.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Gravel, Margaritas, Mountain Bikes, and Trail Trek

Gravel Winos on Thursday evening will be followed this weekend by margaritas and mountain bikes Saturday and trail rides Sunday.


Saturday, tour Lincoln's Mexican restaurants and sample margaritas galore on the annual Margarita Maratón starting at 11 am, or get your mountain bike out and rock the Big Ring Ranch MTB Enduro. Later in the evening, celebrate the summer solstice with pizza and beverages at Yia Yia's for WWASH (While We're All Still Here).  If your head doesn't hurt you too much, head to Haymarket Park at 7 am Sunday and join one of the Trail Trek rides.  Sheclisma Sydney Brown will be the tour guide for the 50 mile round trip to Cortland on the Homestead Trail. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Taking the Lane Guest Post: Ashley's Relationship with Bike Commuting

My relationship with bicycle commuting has been a bit of an on-again, off-again one. It's like any worthwhile relationship though: it takes work. And, I know bicycle commuting is more than a fling for me.
The story isn't all that romantic, but it does get sweeter with age. Let's step back in time to see how it all began. You know that's what any predictable romance would do.
I began bicycle commuting in my last few semesters of undergrad primarily to cope with stress. My doctor recommended increasing my exercise level. I'm not a gym rat, nor did I have a regular time to set aside for a gym routine. (I worked 2 or 3 part-time jobs and took, on average, 15-16 credit hours each semester.) I did, however, have a bike. I also had an apartment conveniently located on the bike trail. What's more, I had a keen desire to reduce my morning road rage and frustration with limited near-campus free parking (read: dedicated time). To my surprise, my bike commute took the same or LESS time than driving, parking, and walking on UNL's city campus. Bicycle commuting became the white knight or something of that fairy tale romance lore. I was falling in love.
I was not always faithful though. There were days of inclement weather and work after class about 10 miles from campus that sent me fleeting to the comfort of my car.
Fast forward a year or two: new job, new apartment. I still lived and worked on or near the trails and within a distance where bicycle commuting and car commuting took roughly the same amount of time. Most of the year--April to October--I would commute by bike a few times a week. I had also begun exploring the limestone trails and venturing farther by bike on the weekends. This provided ample time for personal reflection and decision making. It also cemented my love for my bike.
Within a couple more years, that love would be challenged. A move to Omaha (for a silly boy) and commute to Lincoln left me with little daylight to commute. I also didn't find Omaha very bike friendly at that time. (I hear it has improved, but I will always be partial to Lincoln's trail network.) My bike basically collected dust for about six months.
Fast forward again. In 2009, biking became a bigger part of my life and has shaped who I am today. It again offered space for personal reflection. It also offered a physical release from grad school, which I began that fall. It was then that I took my bike commuting relationship to the next level. I bought a CX-style bike and official commuter rack and panniers. We were getting serious!
Two years later still, a long distance commute caused a short break up. But, I am pleased to report that after two more moves, a fairly difficult personal loss, and knee surgery, I am happily engaged with bicycle commuting.
In all seriousness, I do view bicycle commuting as a long-term relationship. It takes work, and communication is key--with yourself, your employer, your partner, your bike shop, and anyone or any place else that can enable and encourage your bike commute.
I have learned that my daily commute depends upon me and how well I prepare the night before. I dink in the morning unless I have appropriately readied myself. This includes laying out my clothes; packing my work materials; going to bed at a regular time; checking the weather and planning to layer or pack the necessary gear. This last piece took me awhile. Not only did I need to accumulate (i.e., buy) some essential rain and cold weather gear, I also needed to develop the mindset for riding in less-than-perfect and ever-changing conditions. (Those who live or have lived in Nebraska know it can go from 60-70*F to 20-30*F in less than 24 hours.) Even so, some may consider me a fair-weather cyclist or a seasonal commuter. I'm ok with that because I know myself and my body well enough now to acknowledge when weather or body say I should not ride.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

NBC: Sheclismas pepper local top 20 and move nationally with teen's help

National Bike Challenge update:  Currently, four sheclismas have pedaled themselves into the top ten of the male-dominated local leaderboard.  Jamie sits atop the stack at #1 thanks to her domination of the 5 day, 500 mile challenge.  The indomitable sixth-placed Gina is climbing the ranking and now a mere 5 points from knocking RG from his 5th place spot.  Janine "always-take-the-long-route" C. is following Gina's wheel rather closely in #7, and Sydney rounds out the top 10 at #10.  Sarah Janiak holds 12th and Elisabeth sits at #17.

Sheclismo also got itself a new member...soon to be 8th grader AB, has gone ape over Endomondo's automatic tracking for her iPhone.  Her recent burst of cycling has helped Sheclismo move into 3rd place nationally in teams sized 25-40.  Additionally, she and her grandma are also busy earning points for Bennet, NE, which is now fifth in the state, and 233rd nationally.   Keep it up, SHECLISMAS!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Weekend Wrap-up

Looking at the social media feeds of the women of Sheclismo on a Sunday night is so inspiring.

Joy embarked on BRAN, the Bicycle Ride Across Nebraska, and rode all day in cold rain. Tomorrow is her longest day of the 7 day tour across the state.

Molly swam 18.55 miles in 11 hours at Branched Oak Lake. That, my friends, is a really long swim. She had great kayak support from teammates Tammy and Ashley.

Jill went down to Kansas and competed in her first 70.3 triathlon, coming in 16th in her age group in 5:43. That's a lot of swim, bike, run.

Jamie finished the 500 in 5, riding a century every day, 5 days in a row, all in her signature Rainbow Chucks.

And that's just those that are sharing info on accomplishments! What an incredible, inspiring group of women.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

National Bike Challenge Standings as of June 7, 0900

Sheclismas are doing their part, especially Jamie, who sits 56th in the national combined rankings and 10th in the women's-only listing. WAY TO GO, Jamie!  In the teams with 25-40 riders, Sheclismo currently sits 4th, but we are within striking distance of second and third!  In communities with over 200,000 residents, Lincoln is currently second to Madison, WI.  As a state, we rank 3rd, but second place Vermont better watch out - we're very close.  Finally, our local challenge, BicycLincoln, is third.  Keep riding!  Remember, the first mile counts for the most points -- 20!  So, do a mile a day at least.  Happy riding!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Taking the Lane: Places to be, people to see, things to do! Getting it all done on my bicycle!

I have been car-free for quite some time now, coming up on nearly 5 years. I often wonder how I lived life with a car. Whenever I borrow someones car to carry something "heavy" or awkward home I regret it. When I did have a car it was constantly ticketed, towed, and then died. And that is where my life by bicycle began.

I was half-way through my college career in Iowa City. I was mainly walking and using the bus lines, but I had an awesome bike. A Surly Long Haul Trucker, that I neglected to ride for probably a year. Once I moved out of the dorms and was living off campus I was faced with the issue of getting to class and work. I tried the car thing, and as mentioned before it did not work out. The car died and I was almost forced to use my bike.

It was scary at first. I vividly remember my first ride, flat tires, sidewalk riding, and a sweaty backpack were the highlights. But I continued on, and slowly I found others who commuted by bicycle.  I learned the lingo, the proper way to lock up my bicycle, and how to carry my things using a milk crate strapped to a rear rack. There were a couple days of wet shoes and grease on the pant leg, but I persisted. This was a new lifestyle and my understanding was that this was just how it was going to be. I couldn't afford a car, and relying on public transportation in Iowa just wasn't going to cut it.

Slowly but surely I started meeting others who commuted by bicycle. I became a member of the Iowa City Bike Library and got first hand experience changing flat tires and lubing chains, among other things. They answered a million questions and I felt more confident on my bike every single day.

Purple is my favorite color...

I also joined the local triathlon club and started doing longer road bike rides, gaining more fitness. This also helped me feel safer and like I could hold my own on the road. I also started investing in proper lights and started investigating more back roads and neighborhood routes. I learned about planning my ride and pre-thinking the safest routes to my destinations. It also helped that I now had people to bounce ideas off of.

You can go anywhere!!!
Finally my second year of commuting I invested just around $700 into a commuter bike that I wanted. Outfitted with a generator light, a rear rack, a Brooks saddle, fenders, and every color of the rainbow I finally had a bike I loved. I also acquired a job at Jimmy John's delivering sandwiches on said bicycle. I racked up nearly 4,000 miles around the streets of Iowa City.

 Let's just say that commuting was the easy part of my day. In all honesty commuting has become the best and easiest part of my day. I get to zone out, breathe the fresh air, and take my time. My commute has become one of the only parts of my day that is my own, no phone calls to answer, no emails to read. Simple and easy, the commute can be easy to over think. The best advice I have ever gotten is to keep going. There are going to be good times and bad, but you will never be stuck sitting on your butt in a car. You will be using that butt to pedal yourself so many places, to the store, the library, or just to the park.  I now participate in many different kinds of cycling, but I will always consider a commuter and will preach just how important that commute is to the other types of cycling I do. It makes me stronger physically and mentally! You should see just how dorky my wet weather clothing is..and I will flaunt that outfit all over the grocery store. Whether you are walking a flat home or going 4 miles a hour up a giant hill, you will get there eventually if you really want to be there!

Even in the snow, I have places to be!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Gravel Worlds Q & A, followed by Ride (weather permitting)

If you are planning on attending Gravel Worlds this year and are curious about the route or how to be prepared for the ride, join us for a question and answer. Craig Schmidtt, Corey Godfrey , Sydney Brown , and Elisabeth Grindcore will be joining us to take questions and provide information about the ride. After our chit chat, we will go out and enjoy some gravel together.

Meadowlark Coffee & Espresso
1624 South Street, Lincoln, NE (map)
Online Streaming: