March 12, 2010 Posted by Mary Strupp

More Lycra than a Bike Race!

OK, I think the winter season (and all the skiing) is finally over, but will be sorely missed!   That is until my Equinox is out on a the road - the triathlon season is almost upon us!  But back to the lycra -

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Here on the Birkebeiner trails in Hayward, WI XC Skiers wallop a close second to cyclists for flaming colors and designs. This is NOT how yours truly suited up ( as you can see below) 59671-199-019fbut the 13 miler found me first in my age group - can't get better than that (for me)!   It was a ski-perfect day with high sun and amazingly perfect trails.  Not a bad way to enjoy my first experience skiing the Birkie!  Sometimes it can be 10 below zero with bone chilling wind.  The rest of the year these trails resound with mountain bikers yelping their way around miles and miles of hills and beautiful WI scenery.  So bring on the lycra from January through December - it's an all round answer to wind, sweat, cold, sun, snow, heat and rain!  We couldn't be happier with lycra, but now let's get on our 2 wheels and pedal our butts off for 6 months!

March 4, 2010 Posted by Amy King

Practice Makes Perfect

Guess what?!  I can ride my bike with no hands!  That's one of the very cool things I learned on Sunday during my training.  I also learned to properly steer the bike (hint: not with the handlbars), to counter-steer, the physics of steering a bike, how to do a proper lead-out, how far I can sprint on a bike, and some other racing etiquette and tactics.  All of these new skills have given me a lot more confidence on the bike, knowledge about the physics of the bike, and were just fun to learn.

Remember when you were a kid and you wanted to learn how to do something?  I'm betting that you didn't go to the library to research it.  You likely didn't ask your parents.  You probably grabbed a friend or two, went to an appropriate spot, and...practiced!  As kids, my sister and I were friends with the family up the street (Hi, Winarskis!) with two of the sisters the same age as each of us.  The four of us spent countless hours practicing headstands in their living room, doing god-knows-what on the street on rollerskates or bikes, and finding out at exactly what point did you need to bail from the wagon while riding in it down our super-steep driveway.  And while I was going around the same loop in the office park on Sunday, again and again, trying to get my hands off my bars and my body upright (the key to riding no-handed), a song that my brother used to have on tape when we were kids popped into my head:  Practice Makes Perfect.  It's actually a horrible song, but I couldn't stop singing it!  "Practice makes perfect, practice makes perfect, the more times I practice the better I will be!"  I'm sure the recesses of my brain connected that song with what I was doing:  playing like a kid.  

That's exactly what we were doing!  We had a group of girls, and we went out and learned a skill, one at a time, and did it again and again.  For hours!  When was the last time you did that?  We're not kids anymore, and playtime is not spontaneous very often, but we can still schedule it into our lives!  In fact, scheduling a time to go learn something new from an expert (thanks, Lorri!!!), makes the experience even better!  As adults, many of us feel more comfortable having someone teach us how to do something rather than just figure it out on our own.  We've come a long way from the days of hurtling our body through space just to see how it feels.  And since we're likely carving out time from a busy life, streamlining the process of learning a new skill makes it easier, so having someone show you how it's done makes it more efficient.  This Tri-Flow Women's Development Program is 6 weeks long, and we learn a mind-boggling amount of things every week.  Maybe you don't have the time to commit to something like that.  (Frankly, I need to learn a lot to feel confident racing.)  But there are 4 hour clinics or weekend clinics that will teach you more about your bike and bike handling skills.  It doesn't matter if you're a beginner or not, I encourage you to get out and spend a morning or afternoon playing like a kid again, practicing over and over.  Because practice makes perfect!

February 20, 2010 Posted by Mary Strupp

Aging Gracefully!

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So here we are - some of the "Class of '57" going stronger than ever!  We inspire each other, count on moral support from one another and sometimes ski, snowshoe or bike together.  So in 2010 we have BIG plans!  We think we'll blow the competition away with our "age group" triathlon relay!  See the two tall gals on the right in the left hand photo?  Well, the orange "girl" - Judy - will swim like a dolphin; next to her the "girl" in yellow - Brenda - will run like a gazelle and me?  I'm way to the left in my bright Bontrager wind breaker and hope to bike like the wind on my Trek Equinox.  Here we are to tell you "go out there and experience the joy of pushing beyond your imagination".  So it's just a bike ride around the block?  A one mile walk? 1 Lap in the pool?  Who cares?  You might be taking the first step into a whole new world of good health and well being.  If you haven't gotten off the couch much this winter make it your Spring goal to do "something" physical each day, and a little more each day.  By the time you're 70 (like us) you'll be fit as a fiddle and we'll want to meet you on the course!

February 15, 2010 Posted by Amy King

The Race Is On

My race training has officially begun, and now that I have a teensy tiny bit of knowledge under my belt, I feel it's appropriate to set down a goal or two for my first race.  I have a lofty one right off the bat: to finish.  And even though I was chastised for saying so, my second goal is a version of 'don't finish last.'

So far I've done two on-road skills sessions and an indoor training session.  I am doing some riding on my own too, to supplement my supervised training.  Guided by Lorri Lown (leader extraordinaire of VeloGirls), and two mentor racers, Laurie and Mariska, a group of 5 of us noobs are out there learning the ropes and soaking up tips by the second about racing and riding.  It's a nice group of women, all of us coming from different places on the bike and life. 

I've been riding for almost ten years, and the learning has been gradual and casual; certainly a slow pace.  I'm also fairly laissez faire about my riding, as I figure I'm going out to have fun and get some exercise.  If I forget my water or food, I'm confident I'll figure it out.  This drives my anal husband crazy, and he rolls his eyes as he askes if my phone is charged (for emergencies) and knows in his heart of hearts that it's not.  It's all worked out so far, so why change habits, right?  But change is good, and I'm definitely heading down a road that is not familiar to me!  I'm pretty sure I've already learned more about riding in those two outdoor days than I have in the 4 years that I've been riding on the road.  A friend asked if the rides themselves were tough.  I had to think about that.  I certainly worked hard, got my heartrate up, and all that jazz.  But it was more the mental exertion that took me by surprise.  When you're new to riding on someone's wheel, and within elbow's reach of another rider next to you (we're working on it, right Lorri?), it takes a tremendous amount of effort and concentration to...relax, not freak out, stay in control while going with the flow.  Combine that with thinking about pace lines, your speed in relation to your fellow riders, strategy on how to use individual strengths on the team, nutrition, and general bike handling and you find that 3 hours flies by and your head is about to explode.  On our 'breaks,' we're learning about small details about the race, hearing common 1st time racer faux paxs, and what can go wrong in a race.  And there's more to come!

So when I say that my goal to finish is a lofty one, I'm really not kidding.  And while Lorri hates new riders to have the goal to not be last (she has a valid point: there is no shame in last place when a race is as frought with tiny things that make or break you as it is), I am just hoping that I am not embarassingly last, shelled out of the pack and left to limp along and arrive at the finish line as they're sweeping the confetti off the podium.  I'm hoping that my lower brain has been listening to Chris all these years about preparation, and that my anxious anticipation about this new riding path will help me follow Lorri's instructions to the letter and I'll have a good race.  I know that I am getting some amazingly awesome training and will look back at these 6 weeks of training and wonder how I ever got along without it. 

So, off I go to do Tempo Intervals on the trainer.  I'm having fun with my new training program.  I will think about my race and all I've been learning.  The race is on...March 20th.

February 8, 2010 Posted by Caitlin Hollister

Love story

As Valentine's day approaches, I sit down to write my favorite bike love story, the one I've been waiting months to post.  

August 20, 2008

David and I ride out to Farm Pond, 20 miles of perfect road riding from our city home to our favorite summer swimming spot.  It's a sweltering afternoon and we're talking constantly about our new dog, Mocha, on route from her rescuers to meet us in just a few days.  David notices my front tire is low and puts in some air before we leave.  I pack my swim suit and snacks and we take off.

When we arrive, David urges me to run ahead to the water while he locks the bikes.  "You should swim across the pond today," he says, knowing how I wish for more swimming in the city.  Up and over the hill, I hurry to the beach.  He joins me a few minutes later and we linger in the pond.  On a hot day, the water's refreshment never lasts more than a mile once we start cycling home.  Finally we dry off and head back to our bikes, only to discover that my front wheel is now fully flat.  (Here David likes to mention that I only noticed the flat once I had wheeled the bike several yards away and then rested it against a scenic port-a-potty).  Undeterred by this set-back, David pulls out our tools and says cheerfully, "This'll be good practice for you."  Ok, here we go.  Lever out, the tire comes easily and I start to feel for a pesky staple or glass shard inside.  

What do I find?

A ring.

My ring...I recognize it, a simple silver ring with a green stone that I haven't worn in a while and how did it make it's way into my tire?  And now David's on his knee, still dripping wet from the pond and he's asking me to marry him and I'm saying yes, how did you?  where was?  have you been planning?  when?  giddy, giddy, giddy, and so surprised.  The whole ride home, we tell ourselves to stay sharp, my mind buzzing and my heart aflutter.

A week later, my sister added a perfect line to the story..."Now, whenever you have a flat tire and you're cursing your luck or late for work or stuck without a tube, you'll have this wonderful memory to override any frustrations."  And indeed, this past summer when we were 6 months married and had 10 flats between us in a two-week tour of Colorado, I knew each slow leak and every puncture was just a sweet reminder of my creative, endearing love who has kept me riding proud and giddy through many flats, never letting a little gravel deflate our adventures.  

February 1, 2010 Posted by Roxy

Ro[cx]y's X01

P1010006 


 

Point me to the nearest PoserCross race. I'm in.

Yes, I bought a CX bike - the 2010 Trek X01. Mother Nature was excited for me too so she let me ride it outside this past weekend. I didn't go gravel or anything, but I did get her out for some serious hours. I liked it. I need to get it onto grass or gravel to really be able to give a worthy report. But I can say the matte paint job was a nice surprise. And the fact that the Bonty cages matched was even better!

I bought it because, like, everyone else is doing it and well, I don't think we're going to see dry trails for a while and I get ditched as it is on the group rides and this will help close that gap, at least. Plus, with the recent influx of gravel races and rides popping up, I definitely will be on the X01. 

Louisville 2012 baby. Not.

January 27, 2010 Posted by Amy King

Relationships

I got out for a mountain bike ride the other day.  It was a relatively mellow ride, as it was Jen's first mountain bike ride, but I came home buzzing...and tried to puzzle out why mountain biking always makes me feel like that.  It's just plain fun to ride dirt.  But I really love riding road, too, so why do I feel so differently after each kind of riding?  I came up with this metaphor:  Mountain biking and road riding are like different kinds of relationships.  Without reading too much into this (!), I offer an explanation.

Road riding is like a long-term relationship.  It makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, and is beneficial to your health.  You progress steadily, get stronger, and reach goals; there are many fun spots and hard work, but mostly you do it because you know that this commitment makes you very happy.   

Mountain biking is like a fling.  It makes you feel giddy and just a little reckless.  You try things that would not win approval from your mother.  Since there's no commitment involved; you can do something new every weekend and it can last as long as you're willing to let it.  You do it for the thrill.

So there you have it.  I know every metaphor breaks down at some point.  And in this case, I'm thankful, as one can mountain bike AND ride road without pissing anyone off.  Happy riding!

January 24, 2010 Posted by Mary Strupp

Time to Plan!

Plan your spring and summer rides now!  And when you're planning don't skip the Bicycling Capitol of America!  I suggest you hop on the Sparta-Elroy Trail in Wisconsin and enjoy the first rails-to-trails conversion in the U.S!  It connects with hundreds of miles of additional trails from the Mississippi River to Wisconsin Dells and beyond.  Off trail you will find the best in quiet, rolling farmland riding - or check out the Century Challenge Bike Race in early August.  The trail and road rides are "stop and smell the roses" (or barnyard) kind of rides!  You'll ride through old train tunnels, forests, croplands, historic towns.  You can ride, eat, shop and explore.  Camp or  stay in luxury B & B's, like the Franklin Victorian in Sparta.

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While you're there visit one of America's most interesting bike museums - home to the Wright Brothers first bike inventions and the Deke Slayton Memorial Space Museum.  Then you'll be SO close - ride on down to Waterloo and tour the Trek Factory and displays of famous Trek bikes and rider memorabilia.  One last word on "planning" - if you want someone else to plan your adventures see Trek Travel!

January 18, 2010 Posted by Roxy

IMBA VISITS THE HEARTLAND

Yes, there's trail riding in Nebraska. So much that IMBA paid us a visit, with another to follow this week and more in the spring.

So what's the big deal? 

Omaha has some potential, that's what. We've been ear-marked for some grant-funded assistance by IMBA to help design and put into place a gateway park. Yes, gateway, as in a park for bike riding that will hopefully lead to an addiction to more bike riding amongst its users.

Ride Center? Not yet, but maybe some day.

And my little trail club is at the center of it all. Well, I should say "our". I sit on a board for a trail care club, Trails Have Our Respect (THOR) and our fearless leader has put us on the map. He's worked his ass off getting industry leaders here to assess if Omaha has what it takes to be a bike friendly community. And so far, it's looking like might! 

This last weekend regional director, Ryan Schutz, spent an entire Saturday, helping our group come to grips with the reality of what it will take to grow our organization so that it can support these awesome opportunities that could come our way.

Then, I'm told, a world renowned trail designer will be here this week to map the gateway park. In the spring, the Trail Care Crew will be visiting to show us how to build and maintain sustainable trails in our area.  

It's all so exciting! I'm so proud of our club and our community. This could be a great year for Omaha!

January 18, 2010 Posted by Caitlin Hollister

Finding fashion for saddle and ski

As I peer out the window this morning, it's raining on top of last night's sleet and I see my neighbors struggle to move piles of wet snow off the sidewalk.  I know I'll be out there soon to join them, sad that this isn't real snow.  It's the worst weather for biking, but could be perfect for x-c skiing...And what's the connection between the two?  Fashion.  I've discovered that my cold-weather cycling clothes are ideal for skiing...lycra tights that don't get in the way of spokes or ski poles, shirts with back pockets for allen keys or an extra pair of ski gloves, snacks, and chapstick.  The thin Bontrager skull cap that fits right under my helmet is also ideal for keeping my ears warm during ski season and my wind shell keeps me just warm enough without over-heating.  

Why such delight over my cycle/ski attire?  For years, what I wore on bike and ski could hardly be called "fashion."  I complained endlessly about women's bike shorts that cinch in at the waist, making even the super-fit among us look ridiculous and making the rest of us feel like we've grown a new belly that can't hide under equally snug bike jerseys.  Finally, Bontrager designed yoga-style waistlines without any silly drawstrings.  Who needs to tie their spandex any tighter?  Yet most of my athletic gear comes with ties and zippers and thin lines of elastic that bunch up in only unflattering ways.  

If I'm going to venture out in this slush, I can at least look good as I trudge through the snow or push my bike up the icy hills.  I love the winter but I'm a total wimp in the cold.  Thanks to my new stash of Bontrager styles, I have no excuse to stay indoors.  Roxy and Amy wrote some inspiring lists of 2010 resolutions.  I join them here with my resolve to venture out EVERY day, even when motivation is low and the weather discouraging.  Computer off, boots on, out we go.

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