BikeMS: As told by Disney

On Sept. 13-14, I and thousands of my newest bikey friends completed BikeMS, the annual, national  fundraiser for the National MS Society. Being the child of the 90s that I am, I thought the best way to relate my ride to you would be through Disney songs.

Mile 0: “Be Prepared” (The Lion King). Ok, so the song talks about being prepared for the Hamlet-esque overthrow of a lion’s kingdom, but the title is nothing to snub your nose at. Before you ride 140 miles, you should be prepared. A lot goes into that: putting the miles on your bike, getting a proper tune-up, figuring out what food you need to eat before, during and after a long ride, making sure you have sunscreen.

Mile 1: “You Can Fly” (Peter Pan). The first miles are beautiful. You’re happy! Your muscles are ready! Those hills are nothing! The wind is in your hair!

Mile 35: “Just Keep Swimming” (Finding Nemo). There are, after all, more than 100 miles to go. At some point you have to knuckle down and just keep pedaling. You’ll make it up the hills, and you’ll have lots of fun on the way down, too!

Mile 70: “Fixer-Upper” (Frozen). It’s possible that my chain hadn’t been oiled in a while. Thank goodness that each rest stop of the ride has mechanics from local bike shops ready and able to care for your bike’s needs. Fix a flat, tighten a screw or ask anything else. They’ll be willing to help.

Mile 110: “Just Around the Riverbend” (Pocahontas). The middle part of each day’s ride wound up being lots of hills. I would think it’s the last one, but the next one would be waiting for me at the bottom. I came upon a turn which I was sure was hiding a big climb around it. But it wasn’t, and I laughed a little because if that isn’t a metaphor for life, I don’t know what is. You can’t tell what’s around the riverbend, so don’t worry about it.

Mile 120: “Bibbidi-Bobbidy-Boo” (Cinderella). Because Biofreeze is MAGIC I TELL YOU.

Mile 140: “I Can Go the Distance” (Hercules). The whole point of BikeMS can be summed up with the line from this song, “I know every mile / will be worth my while.” Every person involved with making BikeMS a success is grateful for every rider. Anytime I would thank volunteers for being awake at some ungodly hour, just to serve me trail mix and PB&Js, they wouldn’t miss a beat in thanking me back. They know better than I do what a difference the donations to the National MS Society make in the lives of people with MS.

Skin care for Cyclists and Gearing Up for the Cold

As healing as it is to be out riding in the natural world, as an esthetician I am aware of how the elements can effect the skin of a cyclist. I’m definitely not one to condone indoor cycling so I’m going to address some of those skin care needs so you can keep your largest organ happy on the saddle all year ‘round in the great outdoors.

1. Moisturize. The wind and cold a cyclist comes into contact with can cause the skin to become dry, dehydrated, and cracked, so it’s important to keep the skin extremely moisturized.

  • The first step to keeping the skin hydrated is to drink lots of water.
  • You’ll want a good moisturizer to put on the skin as well. Oils for the face and body are quite popular right now and are great for winter since skin has a tendency to get dry in the colder months. However if your skin is feeling particularly oily, water base moisturizers are the way to go.
  • Silicone based products are really great for areas exposed to the wind because they create a protective barrier over the skin to seal in moisture and prevent water loss, perfect for the winter winds.
  • Chamois cream, a rich moisturizer for the bum prevents chaffing and saddle sores.

IMG_5270In the colder months I like to protect the skin on my face with this UA balaclava. It’s nice because it has a drop chin so you can easily pull it down below the chin or around the neck when in and out of places.  You’ll also want to protect the eyes with goggles or non-prescription big lens glasses.

2.  Get your wax on. Forgo razor burn, bumps, and breakouts that make chaffing worse and give me a call to get those hair-ridden body parts waxed. Hair that is waxed grows in much slower, as opposed to shaving, which means less maintenance in your shower regimen. Waxing regularly also thins and softens hair, resulting in silky smooth skin, making your rides oh, so aero.  Just remember to exfoliate, which brings me to my next point.

3. Exfoliate. This is going to remove dead surface cells that can trap hair under the skin causing ingrown hairs i.e., saddle sores. Exfoliating is important everywhere on the body but especially in the groin area where the skin is sensitive, hair is dense and the friction is in full swing whilst pedaling a bicycle. Removing dead surface cells also keeps your skin looking young and healthy. Its best to use physical exfoliants, such as sugar and salt scrubs as well as chemical exfoliants, using acids and enzymes that will continue to work for you throughout the day.

4. Benzoyl Peroxide.  If you should happen to develop a saddle sore, treat it right away. Keep it clean and dry and apply 10% Benzoyl Peroxide/Acne treatment twice daily until it has subsided.

5. Embrocation.  This is a liniament that includes warming agents such as capsicum from peppers to increase circulation and warm the skin.  I haven’t tried this yet, but it’s on the list. Check it out.  Embrocation works better on hairless skin, yet another reason to get your wax on.

6. Clean skin. This seems obvious enough. Keep the skin clean to prevent infection and irritation. Always have wet wipes on hand to freshen up.  Also, soaking 10 minutes in a warm bath will soothe muscles and detoxify the body.

7. Massage oils.  This will help soften the muscles and work out any knots while simultaneously rehydrating the skin, making it feel better.

8. Sun Protection.  Get your vitamin D but don’t get burned. The sun is something fierce and in large amounts it can wreak havoc on your skin, causing skin cancer and premature aging of the skin

  • Eating a diet rich in colorful whole foods will help give your skin natural skin protection from the sun’s rays. Click here for more info.
  • Clothing is going to be your best form of external protection against UV radiation. Check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations.
  • Sunscreen. Wear at least a SPF 15 on exposed skin and reapply every 2 hours. For ladies, SPF cosmetics are a double win.
  • If a sunburn gets the best of you, get out the aloe vera.

All the Cool Kids Ride Bikes

IMG_0523I have two children ages 6 and 12 that I’ve watched grow into expert cyclists,  so I’ve made a list of
reasons bicycle commuting is good for the kiddos.

1. It’s fun.

2.  Cycling can teach a young child coordination and balance

3. Bicycle ownership teaches kids how to care for something, including maintenance and mechanics.

4. Heart disease is the leading killer of Americans. The recent epidemic of childhood obesity means that kids are more likely to become a statistic later on in life. A fun form of exercise, biking keeps kids moving and prevents the early onset of unnecessary weight gain. For those who think cycling is too dangerous for children, the health risks of not riding a bike could be just as deadly. Safety in numbers!

IMG_0727 5. Cycling teaches children independence. For older children a bicycle is a freedom machine, getting them to the library, ceramics studio, violin lessons, the grocery store to grab a snack (or some needed ingredients for dinner) all by themselves.

6. Being outside and learning to properly dress for the elements tunes children into the seasonal changes. This creates an appreciation of the natural world and an awareness of our environmental responsibility.

7. Cycling the streets teaches kids about road safety and prepares them if or when they start driving, plus they’ll be more aware of other pedestrians and cyclists once they’re operating a vehicle.

 

Here is some recommended gear for the young cyclist:

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  • Child Trailers. I cannot speak highly enough about Burley trailers. You need something safe and durable and Burley is the best. For the infant or young child that isn’t ready to hold on, the Burley bee is the place to start. You can usually find a good Burley trailer on craigslist.
  • Helmet. Personally, I prefer the Bern Unlimited helmets with their patented Zip Mold technology. The company makes all sport head protection so the helmets not only meet bicycle helmet standards but skate and ski standards as well. The Nino / Nina helmet for children meet the CPSC and European CEN bicycle helmet standards.
  • Bicycle with training wheels. Any small 12 inch wheel bicycle will do. There are bicycles without pedals (or training wheels) too, these are really helpful so that children can kick along and learn how to balance. However you can opt to just simply take off the pedals until they’re ready to put them back on.

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  • Trailercycle. This is a one wheel bicycle tandem piece that attaches to an adult bicycle so that young cyclists can ride along safely behind at your speed. Again, I’ve found Burley to be the best in bicycle trailers. The Burley Kazoo attaches to their rear rack instead of the seat post (like their counterparts) which makes for a more stable ride. The Kazoo also weighs less than other models making your job easier and more enjoyable.

Women’s Solidarity Ride — August 30, 2014

“I am a woman who is free to ride a bicycle.”

That’s a pretty amazing statement — one made more amazing when I learned about the Solidarity Ride taking place around the world this Saturday. It’s an international event to show support for the Afghanistan Women’s Cycling team.

All you have to do to participate is RIDE! Take to your wheels in solidarity with the Afghan women that dare to ride, and remember the women that dared to ride before who paved the way for independent mobility and freedom for women around the world.

If you have the time and the friend list to accomplish it, you can organize an event and email info@mountain2mountain.org. If not, just get out and ride! Tag any photos with #solidarityride2014 on social media to add your voice to the conversation.

(Shout-out to Springfield and Willard, Missouri for already being on the list!!)

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Keeping Your Cool Under the Sun

Summer is in full swing and it’s been delightfully mild so far, which has made for really enjoyable bike rides. But with a heat wave approaching it’s a good time to revisit sun and heat safety tips and precautions.

Being car-less with a busy schedule, I rely on my bicycle to get me from point A to B to C— a 35 mile roundtrip commute, during which the prevention of heat exhaustion is crucial. In the days when I was an aspiring farmer, I learned a lot about regulating body temperature and have since utilized that knowledge whilst cycling in the elements. The most important lesson was the more skin exposed to the sun, the greater the risk of heat exhaustion. Although it seems counter intuitive at first, this extensive study (Walsberg, Campbell, & King, 1978. J. Comp. Physiol. 126B: 211-222) explains why wearing dark colored long-sleeved clothing is going to keep the body cooler while riding a bike. Dark colored clothing not only offers better protection from harmful UV rays, but also absorbs the radiation of heat, yes, from the sun but from your exercising body as well! The most important factor here however, is windspeed, because even the most modest wind (anything over 7 m.p.h.) will convect absorbed heat away faster than it can be transmitted to the skin.  The fabric must be breathable and loose fitting though, otherwise that refreshing breeze produced when cycling (via air circulation) is negated and the physics of using dark clothing doesn’t work. Personally, I wear classic all black because it’s my uniform for work and school. A loose fitting shirt cools my core, but I opt for the “sweat-wicking, breathable” tights for their pedaling mobility. Snug athletic pants are ideal since loose fabric can easily get caught in a bike chain. Here are more tips for keeping your cool while riding under the summer sun:

  • Wear loose fitting, breathable, long-sleeved shirts (explained above)
  • Wear sun glasses and a hat
  • Take the shady route whenever possible
  • Drink copious amounts of water and eat salty foods (electrolytes)
  • Go hybrid: bike half and bus the rest
  • Make frequent stops to refuel on water and cool off in the AC
  • Apply skin protectant with at least a SPF 15, reapply every two hours to areas exposed to sun

All of this talk of keeping cool reminds me of yet another reason I love riding the forest trails. Not only is it cooler under the canopy, these wooded trails provide ample shade, so I’m less bothered with sunscreen (and forget the bug spray— the mosquitos can’t keep up!). More interestingly though, is that nature trails have the potential to keep our cities cooler in the heat of the summer. Studies show that our climate is in flux and metropolitan areas in particular have higher temperatures than surrounding rural areas. The phenomena is referred to as the Heat Island Effect (HIE) and it’s caused from lack of vegetation coupled with vast areas of materials that store heat from the sun, such as concrete and asphalt. You can feel the intense heat when you’re on the streets and even more so as the hot cars pass by. These wooded bike trails are one way to help lower temperatures and remedy HIE.

Therefore, biking to work is a means to actively participate in the conservation of our woodlands and environment all while cooling our city and us at the same time. The trails won’t beget themselves though, it will take revolutionary cyclists opting to ride rather than drive. The forests are beckoning, so let’s mount up and go for a ride!

Roanoke Park Conservancy is doing a lot of ecological restoration with these wooded trails within Kansas City, check out this map for detailed information.

Give me just four seconds!

On my way in to work this morning, a driver behind me at a four-way stop decided she couldn’t wait the four extra seconds for me to turn left first. She accelerated, cut the corner shallow to pass me in the middle of the intersection, and sped off in front of me. Half a block later she turned into her parking lot.

What?

Her actions easily could have knocked me off of my bike, which could have made my life either (a) much harder or (b) much shorter. All because she really needed to be in her parking spot four seconds before she would have otherwise arrived.

Drivers, I know how frustrating it is to be stuck behind a cyclist! We are slower than most cars. You have to allow ample space when passing us. We sometimes take up the whole lane — and we’re protected by law when we do. But we are still humans! Speeding around us, nearly hitting us or yelling obscene things doesn’t make the roads safer, it makes you look like an impatient jerk. Many cyclists are polite: if we realize we’re holding up traffic, we may pull over or wave you past. If there’s a group of us riding, we’ll do our best to form a single-file line as soon as we notice you behind us. But if there isn’t a safe way to do those things, it is our right to use the entire lane — and running over us shouldn’t be your reaction!

Next time you’re considering pounding the gas pedal, ask yourself: are those four seconds worth ruining that cyclist’s livelihood, or possibly killing her? Is there a safer opportunity to pass her later on the road? Can you take a deep breath in those four seconds instead?

If you can do that, I can much better uphold my end of the bargain. I can ride predictably, since I won’t be scared of you accidentally sideswiping me. I will use a bike lane when available, but if there isn’t one I will ride safely in traffic. If I do take the lane, I will do so in a safe and calculated manner; I won’t swerve out in front of you. And I will not yell obscene words at you.

The best way to treat a cyclists is as if she is another vehicle on the road. Would you pass another car that closely? No? Then don’t get that close to me, either. Would you charge into oncoming traffic because that car is driving slower than you’d like? No? That’s not how you should pass me, either! I have the same rights — and the same responsibilities — as any other vehicle on the road.

Meet the Maker: Elise Keeling of ‘Pilot Valve’

IMG_0460Meet the Maker is our series of profiles on Kansas Citians who use bikes as inspiration for their art and craft. This week’s Meet the Maker is with Elise Keeling, owner of Pilot Valve jewelry.
What’s the meaning of the word “Pilot Valve“?
Pilot Valve” doesn’t mean anything in particular with my work. I found a brass tag with “pilot valve” stamped on it. I had no luck coming up with name for my business and this seemed to work-gender neutral, easy to spell, distinctive.
How long have you been making jewelry? How did you first get involved?
I’ve been making jewelry for over 20 yrs. I’ve been using bike parts for 2-3 yrs.  I had a friend show me how to break down the bike chain and that’s how I got started.
Are you a cyclist yourself?
I’m not a very serious or consistent biker, but I love to ride around the Nelson Art Gallery on a Sunday morning.
Why did you start integrating bikes into your jewelry?
I use bike parts because they are accessible (every bike shop has a pile of parts waiting to be taken the scrap metal yard). The pieces are small and lend themselves to jewelry.  I don’t have metal smithing skills so I take a “finished” item and then manipulate it for another purpose.
How would you describe your jewelry design aesthetic?
As for the look of my pieces, some would label it “steam punk”. I think it’s more broadly “industrial”.
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Where do you acquire all your materials for the jewelry?
I know some great and generous people who work on bikes so I can get parts pretty easy. Garage and estate sales also are good places to look.  If you buy some de-greaser, most bike shops are willing to find a greasy gear cassette to donate.
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Calling All Modern-Day Centaurs: Trail-Riding to Overland Park

While asphalt roads are ablaze with heat, I’m astride my bicycle under dappled green canopies, gliding through treelined trails and passages beneath the bustling streets. There’s a creek cascading over rocks, it races alongside, and we interlace as the stream snakes under the planks of wooden bridges. Mentally merging with my surroundings, I entertain the fairy-tale illusion of the speeding bicycle morphing into my galloping (Sagittarian) centaur self. Making my way along the covert course within the enchanted forest, it’s dark and cool, the breeze encircles my body, flowing through my mane as I inhale the rich earthly aroma. My innate biophilial instincts satiated, the mind silenced by the melodious birdsong, I drift away with the current of the creek…


 

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Indian Creek Trail beneath College Boulevard Bridge

This is my commute and more importantly imagination at play.  I avoid many of the exhaust ridden streets and travel 15 miles to work by bicycle via the parks and recreation trails from Midtown to Town Center.

I link together the trails of Mill Creek Park to the Trolley Track, and my favorite, Indian Creek Trail. On days I want a break from my zealous expedition however, whether it be extreme weather conditions or that I’m just wanting to read, I’ll take the KCATA bus #57 from the Country Club Plaza to 103rd and Wornall where I can access Indian Creek Trail behind the posh QT.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of riding this wooded trail, I highly suggest making a trip, there’s a mystical beauty to the forest that stirs the soul.

Check out this map of the Indian Creek Trail for more detailed information.

Kansas City Cyclists Club from Mo Valley Special Collections

Curious about KC Bike History?

Used with permission from Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, Missouri

Used with permission from Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, Missouri

I’m a visual learner. I like photos and videos, postcards and historical dramas (Downton Abbey! Call the Midwife! Mad Men!) to help me figure out history, and how it applies to me now. So, when I want to know more about Kansas City history, I go to the Kansas City Public Library’s website, kchistory.org.

Today I typed in bicycle! Here’s what I’ve learned, and I’m only on the first page of results:


What can you find?

Biking and Busing in Kansas City

I took my bike out on the highway last week. We hit 55 mph before we had to slow down.

I wasn’t riding my bike of course. We were both on the 51X headed to the Plaza after work. I was snug in my seat, and Fifi was tightly fastened on the bus’s front bike rack. It made getting to the plaza much nicer, as I wasn’t sweaty and gross when I met up with friends, and I got there in about half the time it would’ve taken to ride (and not much longer than it would’ve taken to drive).

kansas city scout sunset skyline

Seeeeee? I told you that ride back from the plaza was beautiful!

Taking your bike on the bus opens up fun new ways of getting around town while getting a few miles in at the same time. For example, in the plaza example above I was able to ride home that evening, taking a couple of fun detours I would’ve missed if I’d been driving. Plus, it was a BEE-YOO-TEE-FUL night, and I got a little bit of exercise.

If you haven’t used the bike racks on the front of KC’s buses, I can understand if you’re a little apprehensive about using them for the first time. They don’t seem particularly welcoming, and it’s intimidating to think of holding up the bus when they’re on a schedule. I’m here to tell you that it’s easy to overcome both of these things!

First: watch this 2-minute video from KCATA. Loading and unloading your bike is super simple. As someone who will brag about my bikey leg muscles well before mentioning my upper body strength, I can assure you the front racks aren’t too heavy. Just be sure to leave enough space between you and the bus for it to unfold.

Second: I’ve yet to find a driver who is rude about me loading my bike. At worst they’re indifferent. That video may have lasted two minutes, but loading your bike — even the first, most awkward time — only takes a handful of seconds. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to load it in the time it takes for other passengers to board the bus and futz around with their bus passes.

(It’s normal to worry about your bike when it’s on the front rack. Just sit close to the front and breathe easy, mama. That bike isn’t going anywhere. You’re a wonderful bike parent doing the best you can. We all get nervous sometimes. It’s perfectly natural.)

Some of my favorite bike-and-bus combos (start/end in the River Market):

  1. MAX or the 51X to the plaza. Ride back via JC Nichols –> Westport Rd –> Pennsylvania, through Penn Valley Park, and back northish on Southwest Blvd. to Walnut. Bonus points for stopping at Murray’s for ice cream!
  2. Main Street MAX down to Waldo. Ride the Trolley Track Trail back to the plaza, then head over to Rockhill Rd which turns into Gillham which turns into Oak to get north. Bonus points for joining the Brookside Ride on Thursday nights!
  3. The 25 or the 108 to the Kansas City Zoo. Ride back via Meyer Blvd –> Paseo –> 9th St –> Charlotte (now with bike lanes!). Bonus points for finding the piano-key bench at 12th & Paseo!