Category Archives: Cycling

Getting Back to Bike Commuting

Since my new job is closer to home, I will get to go back to bike commuting.  Which means figuring out a solution that lets me ride my hybrid bike and still get my kid to school.

My hybrid bike is a Canondale Quick 3 WSD which is lightweight with a carbon fiber fork. Which means no putting our Yepp Mini on the front handlebars.  And I still wanted to use my Ortlieb Racktime bag on my rear rack, which is just about impossible with most rear babyseats.

We have a Topeak Babyseat for my husband’s bike, but a new rack was going to cost $50, plus I would need to buy a handlebar bag or basket, plus I would have to take the Babyseat off every day at daycare and leave it there and my spouse would need to get it, which would mean that if one of us drove one day, we would have a problem.  I didn’t want to schlep an entire babyseat to and from work everyday, because they are pretty heavy.

BikeShare has also come to our neighborhood, but the electric bikes that make up half the fleet are almost never available and my new commute involves two very steep uphills that are hard on a 7 speed Bikeshare Bike.  So walking to daycare and then picking up a BikeShare bike is only really a possibility if there are more electric bikes available.

I posted on a local women & bicycling facebook group looking for ideas and a woman suggested a TykeToter. It seemed so flimsy, but also so simple and elegant. I felt like it couldn’t possibly work. Then I read the reviews. All positive and none colored by being provided one for free to review or anything like that.  I was on the verge of ordering one. And then, then! one came up on our local listserv for half the new price!  I snapped it up and we test rode it last weekend.

So far, I only have one problem with it. Which is my kid loves it so much she won’t get off of it.  Yesterday we went to the splash park and then the pool and all she wanted to do when we got someplace was get back on the bicycle.

She is 32 months and I was worried she might be a bit too limit-testing for the freeform nature of the TykeToter – it has no straps, and you have to instruct your kid to keep their feet on the foot pegs at all times.  So far, she has done a great job of following instructions. She loves the handlebars and says, “it has handlebars just for me!” She still does get a bit distractable and take one hand off the handlebars to point out Jeeps, but she has been very good about keeping her feet in place while she’s on the TykeToter.

My legs bow out a bit while riding with her, but not worse than with the Yepp Mini, and riding with it without her seems to be perfectly fine, though I haven’t done it for long distances. She was also getting too tall for the Yepp and I couldn’t see over her, so this is also a good solution to that problem because she is comfortably below my chin.

 

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Pregnancy and Cycling

The biggest problem with cycling while pregnant, is the number of stupid people out there who do not understand pregnancy or cycling.  This makes it very hard to do actual research, and since I wasn’t willing to stop cycling, I felt myself getting pretty frustrated, especially in the second trimester as my body started to really change.

I had zero problems continuing to ride in my first trimester. Even though I was pretty sick, and being thirsty made me gag, I never threw up on my bicycle and I generally felt microscopically better on days that I biked compared to riding the bus.  Riding the bus made me sick a couple of times, so there’s that.
I gained most of my weight during the first trimester in weeks 12 and 13.  So by Week 14, I was starting to notice some discomfort in the saddle, even on my regular morning commute.  I finally posted on a forum about it, because googling “saddle pain pregnancy” was not helping me find answers besides “stop riding when it becomes uncomfortable” or “buy a new seat” which I wanted to avoid.  One of the responses was to tilt the seat down ever so slightly, which did help a lot.  I also lowered the seat just a bit because it was causing me some hip pain to swing my leg up and over the seat.
I did all of my training rides for the International Distance tri I did at 16 weeks clipped into my bike – these were rides 15-25 miles in length, and I turtled myself once at around 10-11 weeks because I thought I was unclipped and I wasn’t – I went to put my foot down and went right over.  I sustained a couple of bruises on my leg and elbow, but fell directly to the side rather than over my handlebars, and was going at a very low speed, so there was no damage done.  I’m a conservative rider generally so I did not ride super-fast ever.
At Week 16, I did my tri on my road bike and was fine, but found I could not go down into the aerobars (which I never do anyway because I’m a big scardycat), because my stomach had gotten too big and it was uncomfortable.  Around Week 18, I dropped my road bike off with my sister, who has custody of it until next January, so she could join me for the sprint tri we just did, and I test rode it to make sure they hadn’t done a terrible job tuning it up (they had) and I found it really uncomfortable. So I probably could not have ridden it past 18 weeks, personally.  My sister says I’m carrying low, so your mileage may vary.
At 19 weeks, we did a 25 mile bike ride on our tandem, which is the trek mountain bike tandem.  This was completely comfortable and not a problem at all – the rear of the tandem has a step through frame and a fairly upright setup. I think we did tilt my seat down slightly but otherwise I was completely fine. I opted not to clip in just because it was starting to make me uncomfortable to be clipped in.  Around 24-ish weeks, we did a short 10 or so mile ride on the tandem and that was also fine.  I think I could comfortably ride the tandem now.
At 21 weeks, I was still comfortably riding my Canondale Quick 3 to work, but I started to have trouble swinging my leg up and over the rear rack and itching to ride something more upright with a step-through frame.  We don’t have a ton of storage space for another bike, and carrying one up and down the steps is the main reason I went from a step through to a regular bike anyway, so I turned my search to folding bikes and decided to go with the Citizen Tokyo after some unsuccessful searches on Craigslist.  The Tokyo is an entry level price point and the appeal of the folding bike is that either my husband or I could ride it (although it’s baby blue so he probably won’t), and then if the other person needed to pick them up, it can go in the trunk.  This actually worked perfectly the one time so far that we tried it.
I’ve been riding the Tokyo for a little over a month now and I’m really happy with it.  I will give a more detailed review later, because there were very few honest reviews out there.  It’s 26 lbs, so the same weight as my Canondale, and has a low frame so I can step over it easily. I ordered it with the rear rack and the comfort seat.  The best part is that my Racktime Shoulderit Pannier bag actually fits on the rear rack – I wasn’t expecting that because the rear rack is tiny, the tubing is thick, and it’s low to the ground.  When I first pulled it out, we were like, “oh, gonna need a new work bag” but then I came home and told my husband that my ShoulderIt bag actually worked and he was like, “okay, I need to see this.”  It turns out that Ortlieb really knows what they are doing.
My new job is not too far from the train station, so the other purpose of getting a folding bike was that I could take it on the train.  I will be trying this next week.  I think, even though my pannier bag does fit, I will be riding with a backpack, because it’s hard to manage a shoulder bag and a folding bike at the same time.  I also will be hopefully exercising on my lunch break, and therefore might need to take workout clothes, plus my lunch, with me, and the backpack will just have more room.  I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be able to keep riding for – I’m really starting to slow down, so I think I might move to riding on the sidewalks of the busy streets soon. I’m not wild about this, but I’d rather ride on the sidewalk and annoy pedestrians than risk getting run over by an impatient driver.

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Pregnant Triathlete, Part II

I just finished my second triathlon of this pregnancy, and man, was it harder than the first.  I did the first at the very beginning of my second trimester, and my second at the very beginning of my third.  I hit 28 weeks on Friday, and the race was Sunday.  

I did this race last year, and it’s a fantastic race.  (Druid Hill Park Sprint Tri) So I knew when I signed up (before the January 1 price increase) that even if I was pregnant, I would probably hopefully maybe be able to handle it, as long as I was having a healthy pregnancy, which I fortunately am.  It’s a 300 yard pool swim, an 8 mile bike course, and a 3.1 mile run.  The run is completely flat, around a lake.  The bike course is challenging and hilly.  The swim is in a pool, which actually presents it’s own challenges but does not feel as endless as an open water swim of the same distance.  

When registering for a pool swim, it’s important to gauge your speed accurately.  I was generous with my time and put 2:30 for my 100m swim time.  Based on what my pace has been at the gym lately, I was spot on.  Last year I put 2:00, which was also fairly accurate.  I was passed by a couple of people but I also passed a few folks.  If you are pregnant, you should probably adjust your swim time down a bit – even though swimming is recommended for pregnant women, the reduced lung capacity and general lumbery-ness slows you down.  

I rode my Canondale Quick 3 for the bike course.  My normal road bike is a Giant Avail, but my sister, who did the race with me, has had custody of that since May.  I stopped riding my Canondale to work about a month ago (more on that later), because it was getting too challenging to swing my leg up over the rack to ride to work.  I was concerned about riding it for the race because when I’ve done long rides recently, the angle I have to sit at presses directly on my bladder.  The seat, which is normally very comfortable, was also uncomfortable on my SBR a few weeks ago.  I asked my husband to swap out the seat for a wider one, which helped considerably.  I would recommend a comfort saddle like this one for anyone who is cycling during pregnancy.  (I don’t actually have that one but it looks a lot like the one I do have and it’s nice.)  If you still have saddle discomfort, consider slightly tilting the nose down.

Like I said, the course was hilly.  I did not train hard enough for the hills.  My lungs were working at their capacity and I was having braxton hicks contractions on the steep uphills.  I coasted as much as I could on the downhills to give myself a break, and I didn’t push myself.  One guy that passed me kept cheering me on, which was lovely and was the extra push I needed to finish the bike course.  

The run course was where I felt the crappiest, at least for the first half.  I wore my camelbak hydration pack but forgot to bodyglide my arms.  So of course I started to experience chafing from my arms pumping against the wet straps.  I knew from my run last weekend that following my 2 min run 1 min walk pattern was going to be hard.  So I switched to a 1 min run, 1 min walk pattern.  Even that was too strenuous for the first mile and change – I was still having Braxton Hicks contractions, I was getting round ligament pain, and the chafing on my arms was really burning.  I stopped and walked for about five minutes.  Everytime I tried to run again, something hurt.  So I had a pack of Stinger gels and walked as fast as I could.  At the end of Mile 1, I saw my husband and brother in law on the course and handed off my Camelbak.  Once I did that, I was able to run again – I’m not sure whether it corrected my posture or just not chafing was such a relief, but at that point I picked up and stuck with the 1 min run / 1 min walk intervals.  Everyone was super encouraging and nice to me, but sometimes it’s hard to know what to say to total strangers when they say, “you are awesome!” So usually I just said “so are you!” or something else like that.  

As I got to the end, I could see where the chute was to the finish, so I took my walk break and gave the baby a quick pep-talk.  We were going to walk until we saw the sign for the chute, and then we were going to sprint.  I did not think this was actually going to work, but it did, and we were able to come flying into the finish line, which I’m pretty proud of – usually I’m so spent from races that I have nothing left at the finish line, but the advantage of being conservative on this one was that I had plenty of legs left, even if I didn’t really have the lung capacity.  Also, the finish was downhill. That helped.  A lot of people congratulated me after the race and asked how I was feeling and commented on how great it was that I was out there.  

I also got to hang out with my tri club for a little bit, which was really nice.  My husband usually crews me for races but I feel like being in the club will make it easier next year when I have to go by myself and leave him at home with the kiddo.  Everyone in the club is really nice and super-supportive.  

My time last year was 1:16:25.  My time this year was closer to 1:35:37. I’m okay with that.  I felt a little uncomfortable with the attention I was getting (I wasn’t even the only pregnant athlete there – I overheard another girl saying she was 16 weeks), because I didn’t sign up for this race because I felt like I wanted to prove anything.  I really just wanted to do it, and I’ll admit that a part of me was curious if I could do it.  But it wasn’t like anyone told me I couldn’t and I needed to prove them wrong.  I will also say that I did not notice any judgmental looks, comments, or implications.  

What I wore: 

– De Soto Carrera Loose Top with Drawstring Waist – I ordered this top before my international tri, and I was so happy with it’s performance, even though it was snugger than I’d thought it would be and I knew I couldn’t wear it for this race, and when I went to review it I realized that De Soto had accidentally shipped me the Sprinter Top and I hadn’t realized it when I received it. I sent them a sheepish email asking if it was at all possible to exchange a used tri top for the one I had wanted and they shipped me the Carrera top right away.  The Medium accommodated the belly really well and also accommodated my increased chest, and although I probably would have been more comfortable in a Large, I will be able to wear the medium post-pregnancy as well.  A+, would highly recommend to any pregnant athlete looking for a good workout top.  

– Under Armour Compression Shorts (5″) – Last weekend, getting pretty desperate for something made of moisture wicking fabric to wear for this race, I hit the Under Armour Outlet. I really wanted these shorts in the longer 7″ version, but they only had the 5″. I bought them in a large, and because the waistband is wide and pretty flexible it was able to fit up and over my belly.  However, when I test rode them yesterday, they rode up quite a bit and so I needed to add gripper elastic to the bottom.  (I ordered 2 yards of Gripper Elastic from Quest Fabrics a month ago to add to my running skirt.)  It was a quick project and made a world of difference – my shorts stayed put and didn’t ride up, bunch, or chafe, and they were long enough to protect my thighs from my bike seat.  

Ultimate Maternity Belt – I’m a pretty comfortable person doing what I need when I need to, but even I was kind of embarassed to be pulling on my support belt before the bike course. However, I can’t run without it, so I sucked it up and put it on.  It stayed put and helped keep things in place for the run.  I actually have mixed feelings on whether it’s that helpful for the bike.  

Tri

 

And yes, I went home and took a nap.  

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Pregnancy and Triathlon Training (Part I)

Going into triathlon training was harder than going into half marathon training. I was training for a distance I had never done before.  I signed up for the race because I wanted something to distract me from what I anticipated being a roller coaster of TTC.  Well, I signed up for the race because I wanted to do an International Distance Triathlon.  The fact that I knew it was going to be timed with a possible pregnancy was a minor concern, but I did some googling and it turns out that other women have done tris while pregnant, and I really wanted to do a race. So I signed up.

I started training in January because I wanted to build up a base before getting pregnant. So I pushed myself really hard to follow my training schedule up through the end of February, when I first found out.  Also, I knew that the doctor’s advice would be, “as long as you were doing it before you were pregnant, you can continue”.  So I wanted to be able to do all of the distances for my race before I was actually pregnant.  After I found out, I pushed myself really hard to keep training because other than a bit of nausea, I didn’t feel that different.  Then, around 6 weeks, on my way to the pool in the morning, I got off the bus and puked all over the sidewalk.  It was probably the most upsetting thing that happened to me in my early pregnancy, just because it came out of NOWHERE – I had been fine that morning – and because it was so sudden and so embarrassing.  I wondered if I should skip my swim until I felt better, but I decided to go with it – and it made me feel better.

I cut back on spin class because I was concerned about overheating in the tiny, HOT, cycle studio at the gym, and I didn’t want to tell the instructor yet that I was pregnant.  I did spin on my own and fortunately once it warmed up I was able to ride outside.  I also continued to bike commute (more on that in a later post), so it wasn’t like I was spending no time on a bike.

I kept up my running as part of my half marathon training, and after the half, I cut back on my long runs and ran about 4-6 miles on the weekends and 2-3 miles during the week.  I was lucky to mostly avoid the being super-duper-exhausted that a lot of women report, and was able to make it to the gym at least every other day.  I don’t think, after week 7 or 8, I ever had a full 2SBR week.  I tried to just do the best that I could and have faith that the base that I built would carry me through.

Around week 12 my tri shorts no longer fit.  I ordered a new pair of low rise shorts from DeSoto and a tank from them as well, which were great.  The shorts were low rise and I sized up to a Large and they fit me comfortably through the race, which was at 16 weeks.

Like with half training, my long training rides/runs on weekends wiped me out completely. I needed a nap, and once it got hotter out, I found I had a headache from dehydration and being in the sun too long afterwards.  I carried a Camelbak with Nuun and ate sportbeans or stinger honey gummies (which are my new favorite training snack).

My main concern for the actual race was how thirsty I get and how that would affect me during the swim.  I drink a lot of water normally, but I’ve been so thirty all of the time.  And my throat being dry tends to bring on nausea.  I had hoped my nausea would clear up by 12 weeks or at least 14 weeks but I was still nauseated and throwing up the week of and after the race, so that was a little disturbing.  I was also concerned about getting enough water, so I made sure to drink as often as possible from my Camelbak and take water at all of the rest stops on the run course.

Other concerns you might have as a triathlete would include whether your wetsuit will fit. I got lucky – I happen to have a wetsuit that is a size up from my regular size, and I was able to squeeze myself into it pretty comfortably for the race.  Definitely rent or obtain a hyperstretch wetsuit if yours is starting to feel snug.  Don’t google “maternity wetsuit” because it will lead you to about 200 forum posts in which somebody asks about a maternity wetsuit and 20 people tell her that it’s way too dangerous to do any of the activities that require a wetsuit.

Actually, let’s just talk about concern trolling, shall we?  Don’t google “doing a triathlon pregnant” if you don’t have the ability to dismiss a bunch of people who don’t know what they are talking about on the internet.  The responses I read varied from “it’s fine” to “falling off a bike when pregnant is inevitable and will kill your baby.”  (Spoiler: I fell off my bike at 10 weeks and we are just fine, thank you. Not that I recommend it.)  Remember that these people are not doctors. They do not know you. So talk to your doctor, consider your abilities, and then consider how far along you are.  I would not recommend doing a long distance tri beyond 17 or 18 weeks personally, because that was the point when my stamina was really shot and even walking uphill became challenging.  I would not recommend it if you are just trying to PR because the chance that you will PR is pretty slim.  But if you are in good shape, can do all of the distances already, and want to do a race? I say talk to your doctor and then go for it.

There is a part II of this post that will be coming in August, because I have a sprint I’m signed up for.

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Brick (and spring!)

Last Sunday, I did my first brick workout.  We did a 20 mile bike ride, and I followed it up with 2.5 miles of running.  I was surprised and pleased at how easy a time I had with both of those, as well as my transition.  We finished the bike ride in under two hours, including a break for snacks, so I’m pretty confident I’ll be able to make it through that portion of the race and hopefully the run.  My legs felt pretty good on the run.

Monday I did a full mile swim.  I’m a bit concerned because I keep needing water during the swim, but the internet suggests that during the race itself, I might be okay. The internet does not suggest a way to rig one’s wetsuit to hold a camelbak.  I’m also still working on my foot cramp issues.  I think I need to potentially up my calcium, salt, and/or potassium intake to try to combat this issue, but I’m also getting better at stretching out my foot while I am swimming and managing with the pain.

Tuesday, I went to a tri club meeting for the start of the season.  Then it snowed.  And I felt discouraged again and I let it affect my workout for the rest of the week.  I really need to get out of this funk, and I wouldn’t mind not feeling so tired either.

On Saturday, we went up to my inlaws house and I did a 14 mile bike ride and then did a 6.2 mile run.  The bike ride felt awesome – I was averaging 18mph while I was on the road! Then once I hit the trail, I slowed down because it curved a lot and there were pedestrians, but I was able to keep it above 15mph for a lot of the rest of the ride.  Things went way downhill on the run though – I need to hydrate better and eat more on the bike. I know most triathletes eat a lot on the bike leg, but I have a lot of trouble balancing on my bike with only one hand, so that makes me nervous.  Next weekend, I’m going to try nuun in my camelbak and force myself to maybe drink water every mile or two miles. I think I’m going to try to do a full International brick – a 24 mile ride and then the 10k run.

The really good news is how comfortable I’m feeling on my road bike. I clipped in on Saturday and didn’t fall over at all.  I feel much more confident and balanced, although my husband is joking that we need to do donuts so I can practice my turns.  It’s really not a joke, I’m terrible at turning – I’m a total chicken.  If a turn is too sharp, I get off my bike and walk it.  So, we’ll be working on it.  I also am not having any real trouble with the bike-to-run transition – my legs don’t feel like jelly going into the run, even if I really pushed myself on the bike.  I’m just having overall stamina issues, so I’m spending the next three weeks (eeek) working on those, because if I’m as tired as I was on Saturday + a mile swim, there is no way I’ll finish in the 4hr time limit.

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Bike Storage

We are house hunting right now and it’s kind of a problem. We have a lot of stuff, which includes 5 bikes. Which includes a tandem. Our ideal house would have an unfinished or tiled walk out basement. It would also have 3 bedrooms upstairs so that we didn’t have to dedicate the basement to housing our stuff. The problem is, we also need a parking pad, and we’re not finding that in our price range. So we started looking at other solutions.

We have a gravity stand (like this), which houses our two least-frequently used bikes, and in the past we have used hooks inside a closet. The problem is, I don’t want any of these on display in the main floor of our new house. I think having bikes in the living room is awkward, period.

I’m not a big fan of anything that looks like this:

From Knife and Saw

Because I ride a heavy bike with a step through frame, the cute bike shelves are not an option.

I do really like this design, if I have to keep my bike in the living room.

Bookbike

The problem is, again, five bikes. One of which is a tandem. So building a bike shed seems much more practical, except that every house we look at with a parking pad has a large AC unit right next to the front door, isn’t long enough for a shed and our car, and isn’t wide enough for a shed and our car.

From Shed Scene

There are a few places we have seen which have a deck over the parking pad, or we could build a deck over the parking pad. At that point, building a shed under the stairs is certainly possible, and hopefully the deck would be high enough. The other problem with our neighborhood is that security is definitely a concern, so we can’t just keep the bikes on a rear deck, they need to be very securely locked.

Anyone have any suggestions?

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Night Rider

Night riding is the scariest part of cycle commuting. So how do you make sure you’re visible? Reflective gear, bright lights.

You can get yourself a nice reflective ankle strap – these come in a couple varieties, the slap bracelet type or the velcro type.

I bought a white reflective vest this year, which was easy to layer over my black jacket – unfortunately, all of my winter coats are black. I really wanted a nice reflective coat, but those don’t exist, though some of the ones on this site are pretty nice, and currently on sale. I also bought some reflective tape to add to my fleece jacket but didn’t get around to doing it before it warmed up and the seasons changed.

The most important things to get are a good headlight and tail light. I have this set, but I actually don’t recommend it. The tail light is super-hard to turn on and change from flashing to steady to off, so I would get the blaze headlight and then a tail light that has a button.

These are the new version of those glow in the dark spoke things you would put on your bike when you were a kid. They are very bright and when your wheels go around, they look really cool.

I don’t have many good tips for riding in the dark, because I just find it scary and try to make sure everyone sees me and get home as quickly as possible. I would also say do not run red lights late at night, but sometimes if I’m at an intersection where I feel unsafe waiting in the dark, I will actually make the call and run the light – but make sure the intersection is clear of cars before running the right. Also, make sure that you travel on roads you are familiar with, if at all possible, so that you know where potholes, construction grates, and other hazards are.

Did I miss any reflective items? Do you have any night riding tips?

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Rain

There was a freak hail storm and a flash flood warning all before I left work yesterday, so I figured it was a good time to write about rain gear.

First of all, the most important thing is to cover your seat if they are calling for rain. They sell a thing, but really, just grab a plastic bag. I keep a few in my desk drawer and if the skies darken, I dash down and tie one on. I have a gel seat, so if it gets wet, it’s bad news.

4.jpg
(Source)

Secondly, get rain gear. Then, keep it with you, just in case. I really like the Marmot Precip, which you can fit in a small stuff sack. The PreCip has pit zips and is very lightweight, I also love it for running. Several other companies make similar jackets, so just look for something with pit zips, zipper pockets, and that compresses really small. You also want to make sure you get a jacket in a bright color – now is not the time to go for basic black or a nice neutral – you want to be seen, especially in the rain.

I do not own rain pants, but my husband does. I usually opt to walk if it’s raining when I leave my house, so I only get stuck in freak rainstorms going home and arrive drenched at my house, rather than my office. I do own a pair of Mistral Pants which are great for drizzling weather, and I found on sale, but they’re not super-office-appropriate, so I don’t wear them that often.

You also need fenders. Fenders will keep the rain from splashing onto your pants. They are super-important even if you aren’t riding in the rain.

Thirdly, set up rain alerts on your cell phone so that you know when it is going to rain.

Fourthly, be prepared for your body temperature to drop. On a day when I might not normally need gloves, if it rains, my hands will freeze. Keep a spare pair of gloves in your raincoat pocket.

Fifthly, ride smart. Go slowly, make sure people can see you, and signal everything, and for longer than usual. Take an entire lane even if you normally wouldn’t, especially in a downtown situation where traffic is moving slower than usual anyway.

Anyone else have any tips or gear suggestions for riding in the rain?

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How to Bike Commute When You Don’t Have a Shower

My office doesn’t have a shower. I often have to go to court early in the morning. And around here, summer temps are regularly in the nineties before I even leave for work. A few ideas for avoiding showering and avoiding needing to shower:
1.) Shower before you ride and leave your hair wet. Keep whatever supplies you need to do your hair in your office. This will help reduce your core temperature so you don’t sweat so much. It might also help you avoid helmet hair. I don’t really have any tips for men. Cut your hair short, I guess?
2.) Change clothes when you get to work. Ride in performance wear. If it is extremely hot out, run your shirt under cold water before putting it on. This will keep your core temperature down.
3.) Consider joining a gym near your office that you can shower at. Do not rule out local community colleges or universities, some of these have very reasonable prices for community members. Also, consider befriending somebody with office showers or an office gym. It might seem silly to pay $20-30 a month for shower privileges, but you are getting your exercise by riding to work and a gym membership makes that possible.
4.) Go to an over-air conditioned coffee shop or convenience store on your way to work and pick up something with a lot of ice in it so that you can cool down before you get to work.
5.) Ride in a lightweight dress and add a blazer when you get to work. Synthetic knit wrap dresses are great for this because they don’t show sweat and they are flow-y so they are pretty cool.
6.) Get some shower wipes and some dry shampoo. Shower wipes are surprisingly effective.
7.) Apply deodorant before going to bed at night to allow it to sink in more fully.
8.) Use a pannier bag or a front bag/basket to avoid wearing a backpack – back sweat is the worst and grossest part of bike commuting, and you can dramatically reduce your need to shower by avoiding having something heavy on your back.
9.) Ride with a wet towel around your neck to keep your core temp down. (I think I read an article about this a few years ago.)

Anyone else have any tips for commuting to work without showering? I don’t really know about wintertime. Or being a man, so if you have tips, please add them in the comments!

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Buying a Bike

So you want to buy a bike – but what do you do?

The first thing I recommend is going to your local bike shop.  Try to go to one that has a good inventory that isn’t pre-built.  Talk to the shop folks about what you are looking for.  If you haven’t ridden a bicycle in 5 years, definitely start by test driving everything.  I was amazed that a bike didn’t have to feel like my childhood mountain bike.  I was surprised that I liked a step-through frame.  I loved 700cc tires.  I liked flared handlebars.

There are a few mistakes that a lot of first time bike-buyers fall for:

  • Prioritizing style.  If I have one more person tell me that they want to get an “awesome vintage looking bike”, I will scream.  I have an awesome vintage looking bike, actually, and I love it, but that was not my priority.  Prioritize comfort, and then if you want a particular color or style, go from there.  Do not sacrifice comfort or functionality to get an aesthetic you want, you will regret it, because you don’t really see yourself on you bike that much and nobody really compliments you on your stylin’ bike.  Maybe other cyclists.
  • Buying a beach cruiser.   If you live at the beach, this is acceptable.  If you do not plan on biking more than 5 blocks, this is acceptable.  If you live near a park and just want to ride your bike on the trails, this is acceptable.  If you plan to ride your bicycle on a road or up or down any kind of hill, keep looking.  Cruisers are fun, but they are not practical.  They do not let you get up to high enough speed in traffic and they do not allow you to take advantage of hills to build momentum.
  • Buying a fixed gear bike.  If you really test ride all of your options and then buy a fixed gear bike, that is totally your decision.  But going to a shop where all they carry is fixed gear bikes and then buying one on your first trip out is a bad choice.  I’ve never ridden a fixed gear bike, I might very well not know what I’m missing.  But try out a beach cruiser, a bike with gears, and a fixed gear bike before you decide.  (Test riding a fixed gear bike is on my list, since I am so sanctimonious about it.)
  • Not knowing how gears work.  Hi, this was me.  My parents taught me how to ride a cruiser, and then bought me a bike with gears and hand brakes.  I had no idea how to use them.  It wasn’t until I met my husband that he taught me how to shift up and down.
  • Buying a heavy bike.  My hybrid commuter bike is extremely heavy and unwieldy.  We used to keep it on the balcony and it was impossible for me to carry.  My road bike is lightweight and I can lift it with one hand.  When you buy a bike, make sure you can pick it up and keep the front wheel stable at the same time.
  • Buying the wrong sized bike.  Even if you are going to buy a bike off Amazon, go to a local bike shop and have them size you for a bike.

What about buying used bikes?  Used bikes are great.  There are probably things that you need to look out for, like making sure the tires are in good condition and the gears are all in good shape, but a bike shop can tune up your bike for less than $100, and the tires aren’t even that expensive to replace, as long as the components are good and not rusted, a used bike can be a great deal.  Make sure you know the street value of the bike – nobody likes feeling like they’ve been had.  The trickiest part about used bikes is sizing, and the fact that many places don’t have that much availability for women.  Some bike tour companies sell their used inventories – Bike and Roll does this as do a number of other bike companies.  If a bike has been a rental, it’s probably been relatively well maintained and is likely pretty durable.  I’ve gotten some dud rental bikes though (could be user error), so be careful, but it’s well worth the long line on sale day to make sure you get a nice bike.

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