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By Katie Young
In our culture, we hear the word “fitness” thrown around everywhere. It’s on the cover of just about every magazine. It’s the word that draws you into athletic stores, and spits you out with ridiculously expensive Nike shoes and matching neon leggings. It’s the word that sits on many of our to-do lists, but we can never quite cross it off. There is a reason for this.
Fitness doesn’t just happen. You can’t buy it, and you definitely aren’t born with it. Fad diets don’t pave the path to it, and neither will the workout videos that you buy, but never watch. Fitness is something that, if it isn’t a priority, will constantly loom over you, negatively impacting your confidence and your health. At BikeWalkKC, we hope to normalize fitness, and incorporate it into the Kansas City culture. With new bike paths and sidewalks being built constantly, and the expansion of our B-cycle rentals throughout the metro area, we are well on our way to making this vision a reality.
It doesn’t take much to make small changes to your daily routine. For some, that might mean taking the stairs instead of the elevator. For others, that might mean bringing a lunch instead of eating out every day. What matters is the effort, and every person is different. Biking can be just one more of those little changes that makes all the difference. Start out small and work your way up. Bike to the drug store occasionally, and then maybe take a trip to the grocery store on your bike. Before you know it, you will be biking everywhere and loving every minute of it! There is something to be said about the sense of accomplishment associated with biking or walking to a destination.
Unlike vehicles, which can alienate you from your surroundings, bicycles allow you to see your neighborhood from an entirely new perspective. Biking adds depth to your day, and gives you the satisfaction of reaching your destination by your own effort. Biking is also a great form of exercise. It burns calories, tones muscle, and increases your aerobic capacity. Most importantly, however, when you implement biking into your daily routine, you are implementing the lifestyle that comes with it: health, wellness, and longevity.
It’s time to change Kansas City for the better. We strive to make Kansas City a safer, friendlier city for bikers and walkers, and hope that you will take advantage of the opportunities that we are working to supply. Remember to start small and work your way up. Once you’re biking everywhere, though, we promise that you’ll never go back!
About Katie: I began running as a sophomore in high school: seven years ago. Two half marathons and one marathon later, I am excited to notice more and more runners on Kansas City sidewalks, sharing my love for health and fitness. I recently graduated from Georgetown University in May with my Bachelor’s in English. As I begin my career exploration, I am thrilled to be involved with BikeWalkKC’s mission to normalize active lifestyles in the Kansas City area.
This post originally appeared on the VisitKC website, by our spokespeople blogger Ellen Schwartze.
Downtown KC: another American concrete jungle, right? Not so! Downtown has several beautiful green spaces tucked between the busy streets and tall buildings. The next time you’re looking for a picnic spot, scenic view or downtown oasis, look no further than these parks, found on the BikeShare B-Outside parks tour.
I started at one of the most popular bikeshare stations, 3rd & Grand in the River Market. Since this is a choose-your-own-adventure tour, I’ll give you some options to get to the first stop, Berkley Riverfront Park. Option 1: bike across the Grand St. Viaduct (5 minutes) — be prepared to share the road! Option 2: bike a couple blocks up 2nd Street to the Town of Kansas pedestrian bridge (10 minutes), walk the bike down the bridge and stairs to the path. (Pro tip: there is an elevator but it isn’t always on.) The park is decked out with paths, picnic tables and excellent views of the Missouri River and its bridges, including the Hannibal train bridge and the Broadway, Heart of America and Kit Bond bridges.
After frolicking — and frolicking is a must — head back the way you came and point your trusty steed westward to Case Park. Again, you have a couple options: Option 1: ride to the 8th & Broadway bike share station then walk up the stairs at 8th & Washington, or Option 2: go straight to the park by conquering the hill on 7th Street. Case Park views stretch to the horizons: to the north, the downtown airport (sit for a moment during the week and you’ll catch a few take-offs), and to the west, the river, West Bottoms and Kansas City, Kansas. The park also has a playground for the kiddos and tables and grills for weekend cook-outs.
Next, pick up a bike from 10th and Washington and turn into the downtown business district for two more parks. Oppenstein Brothers Park at 12th & Walnut (5 minutes) offers a shaded break from the weekday grind. Be sure to investigate the Star Disk, which displays seasonal constellations when you line up the month and day.
Four blocks away is one of my favorite parks in KC, Ilus W. Davis Park (3 minutes). It stretches two city blocks between the courthouse and City Hall, with a beautiful water feature and reflecting pool in the southern block. It’s great for people watching in during the week, too. Plop down on the grass and consider all the fun you’re having and all the hard work people are doing in the high rises around you.
For your final leg, head due south to one of the most famous views of the KC skyline from Penn Valley Park, home of the Liberty Memorial. Drop off the bike at the Union Station kiosk (15 minutes) and then spend an afternoon exploring the park grounds — it’s huge! If you brought Fido, keep walking south to the off-leash dog park. If you’re a history buff, the WWI National Museum is not to be missed.
It’s early morning and I’m alone in a quiet bike shop. The rasping sound of a file against metal is my companion, shavings of brass fall gently to the floor as I shape a fillet that forms a joint between two steel tubes. I can pass hours this way, coaxing the simple raw materials of steel and brazing rod to come together into something magical: a bicycle frame.
That’s no hyperbole by the way, I truly believe that bicycles have magic stitched up in them. I know this from personal experience – a direct revelation from my bike that has completely transformed my life in the most astounding ways. The simple act of riding has brought me community, health, confidence, and uncovered within me a wellspring of passion for the art and science of creating, building, and maintaining bikes.
Last fall, my bike lead me on adventure to become acquainted with the generous and gifted folks at Velo+ in Lenexa, KS. The more I rode my bike, the more I wanted to know, and what began an occasional stop at the shop for service or parts (not to mention some of the best fresh roasted coffee in town!) grew into a wrenching apprenticeship with the shop mechanics, David and Tim. As I learned, the veils of mystery surrounding all things bike began to part and I discovered how satisfying and empowering it is to understand, fix, and assemble.
I also began to realize how much opportunity there is for self expression through bikes. I was fascinated by the ever expanding array of components – all made with different styles, materials, colors and offering unlimited potential to customize a bike for any riding style. It was only a matter of time until my obsession progressed to the ultimate customization – a handmade bicycle frame. The fates were on my side, because not only does Velo+ staff mechanics with encyclopedic knowledge and skill, but the owner, Vincent Rodriguez, is a custom steel framebuilder.
Vincent kindly agreed to share the trade with me and now I find myself in an unbelievably fortunate position as an apprentice of steel framebuilding, as well as continuing with my mechanic training. I am still very much a novice to be sure, but as I work on my frames I’m convinced that I have found my true calling in life as a framebuilder; the most exciting aspect of which is to have the ability to create and share a thing of magic… a bicycle.
Although handmade frames are certainly rising in popularity, there are only a handful of women builders working in the field. Gender equality is a complex issue to be sure, but perhaps I have access to a bit more bike magic than my male counterparts. It would be a great joy to serve as source of inspiration for other lady makers, riders, and dreamers out there. And maybe, just maybe, that inspiration will be the gentle push that starts another person on her own bicycle adventure of transformation.
The Tweed Ride is happening next month, where Kansas Citians dress up in late 19th century style clothing and ride bicycles through historical neighborhoods around the city. As a woman cyclist, I feel a sense of affinity with the suffragettes of this time period, the bicycle being such a powerful tool in the emancipation of women. “The New Woman” was a term used in that era to describe the modern female who broke free from convention and played a more active role in society and the workforce.
Susan B Anthony, wrote: “Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than any one thing in the world.” These words are just as relevant today.
With so many issues on the horizon regarding health, social and environmental concerns, cycling is a sure way to help mitigate these societal shortcomings. When we ride, not only are we enjoying ourselves in the outdoors with the wind in our hair, but we are setting an example and creating change.
The bicycle was a symbol of women’s independence in a male dominated society. It provided freedom from the Victorian Era restrictive style of clothing. The physical demand of riding a bike was cause to cast off the corset and shorten the length of dresses. The bicycle released her from the confinements of extreme modesty. The traditional forced hourglass image became passé and dress options evolved to allow for breathing and leg movement became more pragmatic and ideal. This physical freedom inevitably liberated the female spirit.
“Success in life depends as much upon a vigorous and healthy body as upon a clear and active mind.” ~ Elsa von Blumen, 1880’s American bike racer
There’s definitely something beautiful and empowering being witness to a woman on a bicycle, its no wonder I get the most compliments when I’m riding. Of course, like every situation, along with the good, comes the bad. Careful with those choice of words guys because strong independent women won’t stand to be degraded and will put you in your place.
Check out the women’s bicycling workshop tonight at UMKC.
Here’s a fun clip to bring out the feminist in us all.
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.
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.
In 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.
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!
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:
- 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.
- 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.
“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 email@example.com. 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!!)
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!