Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Cycling CAN Do This for You!

When I started using my bicycle for transportation, I did not have a goal or objective set. I only wanted to ride my bike to work "regularly". As the weather became warmer and warmer, so did my miles increase .. and total time increased as I chose a new, more peaceful but longer route to get to work.

By the time I rode home today, I had logged 380 transportation miles for April. That is 28:37 hours of cardio exercise without breaking a sweat! Just kidding. I DO, at times, break a sweat because I like to challenge myself to break personal records but it feels like no effort at all.

I cancelled my $25/mo. gym membership because I barely used it at all this year until I eventually stopped going during lunch. Do YOU know what THAT MEANS?!?! To me, it means FIVE more cups of cappuccinos each month!!


Hey I tell you this NOT to impress you because I think I would rank last in this town of bicycle commuters who have probably stopped logging because they just can't keep track anymore. I share this because I am surprised by this new milestone.  Because after 214 miles in March, I didn't think I could get any more miles in that what is normal for me.


Despite this, the bigger news is my vital health statistics. For the past four years, I have struggled with borderline high cholesterol. It runs in my family and I would not have known if I had not had blood work as part of an annual prevention plan at my workplace.

My bad cholesterol (LDL) went from 134 mg/dL to 81 mg/dL and most of the improvement has been in this past year. No doubt from the past few months! My good cholesterol (HDL) even went up from 92 mg/dL to 98 mg/dL. Over the past year, I have lost a total of 10 pounds, 6 of those pounds were lost in the past few months!


I have always heard that bicycling is good for your health in so many ways and now I am actually seeing the results. Look at these facts.

When I lived in Vegas, I would ride for hours on a Saturday and log 80+ miles and then go ride on Sunday, usually less miles and somewhere between 50 to 75 miles. But my vital health has NEVER been anywhere as good as this.  Sure it kept my blood pressure low and I still have low blood pressure but I truly believe this regular bicycle commuting is helping my cholesterol. That an improving my diet.

Speaking of which, my husband who is 6'0" tall, at the height of his weight had reach 228 lbs.
John, not quite at his heaviest at 6 feet tall.
Through cycling, he shed his extra weight in a matter of months.  The process happened so quickly I had a hard time adjusting to the 'new him'.  To me he was SO SKINNY!! But I am used to him now.
My husband John is a bicycle racer. It is what motivates him to ride and train as hard as he does. Where I am motivated with a purpose - I NEED to have a place to go.  Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy road biking for the sport.  I just haven't had much time with my involvement with various organizations and something going on nearly every weekend.

Anyway, John had the last 10 pounds to lose. When you race and climb hills, every pound counts. So with my help on a new eating program, he was able to lose those "extra" pounds.
My husband is my biggest fan and supporter.  He is the reason I got into cycling (and probably why I continue riding today).  And because of cycling, I have accomplished so much in terms of my health and well-being!!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

How NOT to Bike to Work in a Skirt

I mentioned before that you really do not need special clothing or shoes to ride your bike to work.  Although more and more companies are catering to women bicycle commuters who desire functional but office appropriate attire, most of what you own in your wardrobe will work. I say "most" because some pieces work well and others not so well. And that is something you will find out on your own as try to bike in your work clothes. Hopefully NOT the very same morning when you are about to hop on your bike and pedal off to the office!! Because that's exactly what I did this morning.
Is an A-line skirt bike friendly?

You see, it has been a good three months since I started regular bicycle commuting so by now it has become a habit. I wake up, get dressed, pack my lunch and bags for my bike, swing my leg over the saddle and pedal down the hill. And always with a big smile on my face, of course! Well...sometimes it is a grimace, because the first and immediate 3/4 mile descent down 9% grade can be chilly in the winter and spring mornings.

This morning was no different than any other. I dressed appropriately for the temperature outside so that I wouldn't be too warm since I do not want to arrive at the office with my shirt dabbled with sweat. Correction -- women do not sweat. We glow!

I have this cute A-line skirt navy skirt with cream colored polka dots (pictured above) and I knew the minute I stepped up on the pedal, rested my bum on the saddle and started pedaling that there was NO way it was going to work!  I was pedaling knock-knee and really couldn't get a full and efficient pedal stroke. I could:
  1. Stand and pedal but it would be hard to do that the entire 50 minutes commuting to work.
  2. Hike up my skirt into a mini skirt and flash all of the drivers who pass me by. But eh...that's not quite the image of a Cuter Commuter I want to project.

I have seen photos posted of other women wearing A-line skirts on blogs and the author claims these women ride their bikes in those skirts. On a bike with a standard diamond frame nonetheless!! To that I say more power to these women because I just cannot do it. Not for 9.3 miles where I have to get on and off the bike at stop lights and if I want to get to work some time today!

So I spun back up to the house, dashed inside and slipped on a pair of pants and rolled up my skirt into my bag. TIP: rolling your clothes is more forgiving of wrinkles than folding. These are Ponte Legging Pants from Uniqlo. The fabric gives these leggings a stylish look and there is a perma-seam down the front for a pressed look. They remind me of riding pants. I like that they stretch and have two back pockets yet they're still semi-professional and are also affordable! GREAT for bicycling to work (and tuck neatly and nicely into boots during the winter)!!
I arrived safely at work and happy because I was much more comfortable during my bicycle commute! Then I took off my blazer and put on my heels.
TIP: to make things easy, I keep some of my shoes that I wear for work at the office. That is one less thing to carry and one less pair of shoes taking up room in my closet!
Save the hassle by leaving some dress shoes at the office.
When it was time to go home, I changed out my skirt for the pants, slipped out of my heels for flats, and took off my cardigan since the afternoon was warmer and pedaled home!


Monday, April 28, 2014

First Women's Bike to Brunch at Brewer's Cabinet

When I posted an event to meet up with other women for brunch on Facebook, I did not know what to expect. Would anyone be interested? Would someone join me? I have made some female friends since moving to Reno three years ago but they all have their own families. Encroaching on their lives is the last thing I want to do.

So meeting other women and having casual conversations over food just sounded like fun! Especially if I can ride my bike to the restaurant and the attendees who could meet me there would also do the same!! It all became a reality yesterday when I sat down with four other women (three I have never met or met once) at Brewer's Cabinet and got to know a little bit about them.

My husband rode with me from home and would split off after the restaurant to train on his own. I was grateful to have him to duck behind for shelter from the wind because it was NOT a nice spring morning at all. Even though it was sunny, it was 50F degrees cold with gusty winds. Despite the less-than-optimal weather, I insisted on biking although I would not have blamed other women if they drove instead.

One by one the ladies rolled up on their bicycles to our meetup place. Krystine, then Kara and Rachel, and Sarah.  Since we were the first ones there, we had our choice of seating.

The blustery winds were calmer at the restaurant so we sat outside for some fresh air.  I am glad we did because the inside seating filled up soon thereafter because no one else wanted to sit outside (and it would have been too loud for a group conversation inside anyway).  At least we wouldn't feel rushed to give up our seats.
Breakfast was good although food tends to get cold quick when it is sitting in a virtual refrigerator LOL. I had the Vegetable Omelet.

At our table, we have a Biochemistry student and Secretary of the UNR Campus Cycling Coalition, a (structural?) Engineer and two dedicated volunteers for the Reno Bike Project, a PeopleSoft EPM Admin and a PeopleSoft Business Analyst who is also a Board Member of the Reno Bike Project.
We talked about farmer's market and food storage containers. It was more than that, actually but ... well, you would have to be there next time to find out!!
After brunch, some of the women rode to the Earth Day celebration at Idlewild Park. I felt so bad I had to pass on the event because I needed to help my husband track down my cell phone that had dropped out of the inside breast pocket of my jacket somewhere along the 8.78 mile route to brunch! Fortunately we found it, thanks to Google+ location sharing!!

Google+ Location offers a piece of mind to my husband and I so we would know each other's whereabouts when bicycle commuting between work and home or when he is on a training ride--just in case one of us needs assistance. It sure came in handy that day and saved me from having to buy another smart phone. There so much cycling stuff I would rather splurge on than needing to replace a gadget LOL!!

So MARK YOUR CALENDAR for the next Women's Bike to Brunch Ride!!
When: Sunday, May 18th (instead of 25th because that lands on Memorial Weekend)
Where: TBD (we have received lots of good suggestions and it is just a matter of narrowing down to having it at a Bike Friendly Business)
Start Time: 9AM or 10AM depending on what works for the group's schedule and I would still like to have a pre-brunch ride with those who are interested

RSVP on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/1419636114966140/ and bring a friend or two whether or not she rides a bike!!  She can still share in the joy of cycling!! Ride all the way or drive and ride. It doesn't matter what bike you have or what you wear.  Just come and join the conversation and have fun!!

A Tad Chilly for Open Toe Shoes

The weather is finally nice in the morning again! Bright and sunny. Not a hint of breeze in the air. According to the weather widget on my phone, the temperature was 36 degrees but feels like 43 degrees. That is close to ideal for me - I am happy to ride my bike to work in the cool morning.

My eagerness for the spring season to come back got the best of me and I wore open toe wedge shoes for my ride in to work. I have to admit my toes were a tad bit frozen in the average temperature of 46.5F degrees! In the past, I've worn boots or flats and while flats aren't the best for bicycling (because they can slip off the platform pedals) they sheltered my toes from the wind chill.

Other than that, my attire kept me warm and dry. After 9.30 miles and 40 minutes of moving time, I arrived at work without a misting of sweat and my white button shirt and pants were still clean and crisp!

You don't need any special clothing or shoes to ride your bike to work. Whatever you normally wear will work fine for the most part. Some pieces will work better than others and you will find what works for you and what doesn't. I tend to wear tights, capris and leggings (full length or cropped) under skirts or dresses while commuting.

I wore this today.
  •  Leather skinny belt from Western Star Leather (was one of two custom belts made by my parents-in-law for my birthday and they are high quality and beautiful!)

  • Women's Stretch All-Wear Capris from Patagonia. The low-waist and stretch makes it comfortable for riding on a bike. The fitted, straight legs means the chance of rubbing the fabric against the chain and grease are slim.
I picked up a few capris and tights in bright colors to help keep me visible on the road!!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Easter Sunday Family Bike to Brunch at Brewer's Cabinet

Now that my husband John also has a commuter bicycle of his own, he is eager to ride our bikes together and grab breakfast again. So on Easter Sunday morning, he rode his commuter bike and I rode my Electra Ticino. We pedaled from our home in Sparks southwest through the older part of Sparks, west along Victorian Avenue to the Truckee River Trail entrance near Kietzke. The separated bike lane on Nichols Boulevard was really nice and the bike signal to cross Sparks Boulevard allows us to proceed through the major intersection safely.

Separated bike lane on Nichols Avenue

We got off the trail onto 2nd Street near the Aces Stadium. I rode behind another bicyclist who was surely commuting to work - such a great thing to see!
Bicycle Commuter on 2nd Street near downtown Reno, NV

We headed west through downtown Reno and turned left on Arlington Avenue. At the stoplight on 1st Street we encountered another bicyclist. She was wearing a red helmet with white polka dots, platform heels, a dress and carried a backpack and yoga mat on her back!
Bicyclist heading to Yoga workout
Not much farther on Arlington Avenue, we arrived at The Brewer's Cabinet. Although a bike rack exists in front of the building, it was far from our view (and I left my bike lock at work--eek!) so we leaned our bikes up on the patio near where we would be sitting so that we can keep a watchful eye.
 It was a GORGEOUS morning!! A little cool to start but as we sat on the patio the sunshine kept us warm.
There were other folks at the restaurant enjoying Easter Brunch. A group of men at another table enjoyed the Kegs & Eggs Special ($15 for entree and all you can drink Tahoe beer) from the breakfast menu. John ordered coffee, a Mimosa with the Classic Hash entree and I had coffee, a Bloody Mary with my French Toast entree.

The Brewer's Cabinet wins our vote for a Bike Friendly Business (and we let the manager, Rudy) know. He asked why and these are my reasons:
1) There is a bike rack
2) The restaurant is easy to get to by bicycle
3) Bike lanes run right to the restaurant (big bonus)
4) Patio seating and bicyclists LOVE to bike to breakfast or brunch (big bonus)

For the reasons above, I am bringing six other women back the following Sunday for our first Women's Bike to Brunch event. By the way all women are invited to join the Bike to Brunch, whether they ride a bike or not. They can still share in part of the joy of cycling and that is good food, great conversation and meet other women!! The Cuter Commuter Bike to Brunch will be held the last Sunday of each month through September and starts at 10AM unless there is a special event and we have to start earlier or later. As summer progresses we will have a pre-brunch ride through surrounding neighborhoods. So mark your calendar!!

Originally, I had another venue in mind that has a great patio. It met nearly all of the Bike Friendly Business criteria except having a place to park a bike let alone six or seven bikes so I am afraid it is out of the question. I would rather enjoy the company of the women I will be with, be absorbed in the conversations we will have and savor the delicious food I will be eating than worry the entire time whether my bike will be there or not when I leave the restaurant. So the other restaurant is out of consideration for now, until I can write the business owner or perhaps arrange for a bike corral that we can lock up several bicycles to in exchange for a (vehicle) parking spot.

The Brewer's Cabinet staff was also friendly and the food was really good. Although the coffee could have been a little hotter (I think it cooled quickly after it was poured into cold cups) it did not spoil our enjoyment of our Easter Brunch.

After breakfast we rode through the Old Southwest neighborhood browsing homes for sale. Since we recently purchased our new home in Sparks, it will be another year before we can move again. Because would like to live where there are bike lanes near our street and have safe access to each of our workplaces, searching for our next home in Reno makes more sense.


Then we rode the Truckee River Trail home. Along the way we passed so many other bicyclists. I rang my bike bell at each person and greeted them with "Good morning!" and "Happy Easter!!".  If they weren't smiling before, a smile would break across their face and one guy gave me the thumbs up.
I love riding my bike, especially when I can ride it with my husband. We always have so much fun together!!
Since we weren't in a hurry to get home, we decided to check on the progress of the Southeast Connector Project.  The bridge appears to be complete the trail is still closed on Greg Street.  Greg Street is also closed to pedestrians and bicyclists, south of the I-80 E off ramp. If we don't move before the project's completion, my husband will have a way to ride his bike from our home near Vista Boulevard to South Meadows where he works.

Progress of the Southeast Connector
On our way home we rode along a great side street called Lillard Drive. You can get on it from Prater Way or Wild Island Family Adventure Park to avoid part of Vista Boulevard.  Lillard Drive is a nice wide street that has bike lanes.  It would be a great place to teach new bicycle riders how to navigate the roads on the weekend when the businesses are closed and traffic is nearly dead.  I do wonder why industrial parks seem to have bike lanes though. Are there bike messengers who use the bike lanes...or??
Lillard Drive (Sparks, NV)
 Then a few miles from home my bike had a punctured tube. We had planned to stop at the grocery store on our way home to pick up a few items. So my husband rode home to get the car while I walked my bike to the grocery store. There was no need to repair the tube since we were so close to home.

This was my fourth puncture and it was starting to get a little annoying LOL. They were all from goat heads in the tire. It is one thing to get a flat tire on a joy ride but it was not convenient to have when commuting to work and trying to get home.

Soon after we arrived at home from the grocery store, my husband did a thorough check of my commuter bike and made some adjustments. I am pretty hard on my bike since I ride it to and from work, around bike races and to run errands. It seems to need a tune-up every other week, LOL!! I took one of our cats on a bike ride in my pannier to test it out!! She really enjoyed her bike ride within the neighborhood.
My cat enjoys riding on a bicycle!


Saturday, April 19, 2014

UNR Campus Criterium and Recycle a Bike Project


On Saturday my husband John and I drove to the University of Reno for criterium road bike races in which competed. Normally I would pedal on my bike to campus. But since we were headed to the same location and he was driving our car to carry his bike and the gear he needed for the event, it was a good use of our car's resource to carry me and my bike also.

In the interest of competition, the Cat 1/2 was combined with the Cat 3/4/5 since John's field (group) was so small.  John won the Master's 35+ 1/2/3/4/5 and rode solo across the finish line.

John wins the Men's 35+ 1/2/3/4/5 Category in Road Bike Criterium Racing
After John's first race, I rode down to the Reno Bike Project on 4th Street downtown.  A team of us were assigned specific routes along neighborhoods in the Old Southwest. Then we split up in pairs and rode our bicycles down the tree-lined streets where we distributed door hangers to the community.
The message to our neighbors was that we are collecting bicycles and parts so that they can be refurbished and recirculated back into our community. We hope they will consider donating any unused bicycles or parts they may have and we will pick up any of those items left outside on the front door at a scheduled date and time.
When we had the opportunity to speak with the local residents, they gave us very positive feedback for our cause and they wished us luck!!
This is one of the reasons why I enjoy being a Board Member of the Reno Bike Project. Because I get to help make a difference in our community and have fun in the process!!

When we ran out of door hangers, our job was over.  Then it was time for me to head back to the UNR campus and catch John's second race.
Road bike criterium racers line up at the start line.
If you have ever watched a Pro 1/2 Category criterium race, you know how exciting it can be.  The sound of the wheels rolling on the pavement as the racers fly by sounds like standing near a gushing waterfall!! Criteriums are very technical and requires really good bike handling skills through downhill turns and zig-zagging chicanes.
Road race criteriums are technical and require good bike handling skills.
Racing also involved quite a bit of strategy where teams work together. The racers even work with members of other teams to win (or hopefully finish in good standing). But to spectators on the sidelines it might look like the riders are just going around and around. But I won't bore you with that stuff :-)

There was a sprint for the finish and John crossed the line in 5th place.
Men's Pro 1/2 Cat criterium sprint finish
Prizes were awarded to top finishers of each race category and John made out like a bandit!! So after the race John and I went to Buenos Grill at Mayberry Landing to have lunch. We devoured the Buenos Burrito (charbroiled fish with mango salsa and citrus honey butter) and the Del Mar Burrito (spiced rubbed salmon with sour cream chili sauce) and sipped one of THE most delicious Margaritas!!!

John and I would like to thank all of the sponsors of the UNR Campus Criterium who donated generous prizes including some of the prizes that he won (in no particular order) in gift certificates to the following local businesses:

With John's parents in town for work related to their leather making business (Western Star Leather), we went home to enjoy each other's company and the dinner we cooked together.

View more photos from the Reno Bike Project Door Hanger for Bikes Drive and the UNR Campus Criterium web album.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Bike Ride to Breakfast at Squeeze Inn

My husband, John, and I have dined at every Squeeze Inn restaurant location except for the one on Sparks Boulevard until today. Our home is just 2.5 miles away, yet this was our first visit in the year we have lived here in Sparks. Rather than drive, we took advantage of the quiet Sunday morning and relatively warm weather to ride our bikes to the restaurant. Along the way, we dropped off a movie we rented the night before at a Redbox kiosk.

On most weekend mornings, John has a long road bike training ride for miles and miles that lasts for hours. I usually have somewhere to be and things to do on my touring bike so we always try to make sure we ride together when we can. Bicycling gives us more time and a chance to talk about anything and everything on our minds along the way. I think it is important in every relationship to have things in common. For us one of the things is bicycling, although we both enjoy it in different ways. Sport and racing for him, transportation cycling for me. Yet we are still able to spend quality time doing the things we enjoy together.

When John and I arrived at our destination, there was not a bike rack to be found so we did what we had to do and secured our bikes to the bench. There were a few people waiting to be seated so John put our names on the wait list and grabbed us both cups of coffee. We don't mind waiting. All the more time for us to spend together.

Bicycling has also taught us a lot of patience. Although each of us have learned to apply it differently. For John, it is in terms of training and perseverance for those few but important races throughout the racing season. For me, it has taught me to enjoy my bicycle commutes between the office and home. Sometimes it feels like I am on the road for a long time, but my commute actually does not take much longer than driving. The only difference is, there is the absence of stress from driving defensively in traffic and I get more cardio activity time for me. The 30 minutes I used to spend driving to work and 30 minutes driving home became time to reflect on the day and think about my plans while pedaling my bike, moving my body and getting a cardio workout.
For breakfast John ordered french toast with sausage and I had banana walnut pancakes with eggs. We toasted to the day with mimosas. Why not?!? Every day is a day worthy of celebrating!! John and I really enjoyed our time at Squeeze Inn. The food was great and the staff were all so friendly. We spoke to the manager and expressed our desire for a bike rack and he agreed. It was a matter of logistics and we hope there will be racks the next time we visit because we definitely plan to return to the restaurant. Then we rode towards home along a different road.
On our way, we stopped at the bottom of our street where there was an overlook and view of Reno. At the top there was a bench on which we sat to soak in the city. The weather was getting more and more gorgeous as we sat there. I think we could have sat there all day but our day was just beginning and we had plenty more to do!
The container on the rack of the green bike held my leftover breakfast.
 
The last hill to our home is always the hardest for me and I sometimes dread ascending after a long day of work. But this morning I did not want the road to end because I did not want our ride to end. I may talk like we never do this but we do ride our bikes together often LOL. It just never seems to be enough time.
When I am on the bike, I never want to get off.
I feel like I can ride forever if I did not have house chores, a yard to tend to, and cats who need me too.
There is always another weekend and I am looking forward to it!!