Sunday, May 22, 2016

6 Reasons to Run if You're a Bicyclist

As I'm nearing the end of my Master's program, I've become less active.  Where my mind and scientific writing has gotten quite the workout, my body has gotten much less exercise. To help with the metaphor of crossing the thesis finish line, I started running again as my exercise of choice when not bike commuting.  You may wonder why a bike addict would chose to go the way of the sneaker for exercise, so I compiled both biological and personal preferences as to why a cyclist should also incorporate running into their exercise regimen.

1. Impact Exercise to Prevent Brittle Bones

There is evidence to suggest that bikers may suffer from lower Bone Mineral Density (BMD) in the femur, neck, and lumbar spine compared to weight bearing exercises.  You can read the full 2011 study here. More research needs to be done, but there is substantial preliminary research that points to low impact sports like swimming and biking decreasing BMD. For anyone that rides in traffic and has potential to get hit by a car, or for off-road bikers who can take a spill from aggressive terrain, strong bones are a good thing.  Cross training biking and running is a good way to prevent unwanted premature bone deterioration.

2. Quick Boost to the Cardiovascular System

Now, this is just from my personal experience, but I find that biking in Texas does not prepare me for climbing mountains in Colorado, lung-wise. As a long-time long distance cyclist, any time I get on a bike, my body automatically adjusts to a moderate pace, which is good for enduring long distances, but it doesn't help when I really need to be building my lung power, and working on my breathing for future mountain bike climbing endeavors. Even if it's only for 20-30 minutes a day, my heart rate stays up the whole time when running.  There's no break during a downhill, when you stop moving your feet, you stop running.  This really helps me to improve my cardiovascular system quickly. This study discusses some of the physiological differences between cycling and running.

3. Building Strength in Complimentary Climbing Muscles

As you may (or may not) be able to see from the pictures above, there is much overlap of muscles used for both running and cycling. When mountain biking up steep grades in the Colorado Rockies, I was primarily standing up on my pedals to navigate large boulders and pull 100 pounds up the side of a mountain; and when going downhill off-road, you tend to stand up so your legs act as a shock and to maintain a strong sense of balance over your bike and load. When first starting out in the Rockies, this all too familiar position of standing up made me wish that I had incorporated running into my regimen beforehand to prevent muscle fatigue on long climbing days (which are most days in Colorado!). Also, keep in mind, the air is thinner at the high elevations, which is why a strong cardiovascular system that can get your oxygen to your muscles efficiently is important too (reference #2 above).

4. More Efficient Exercise when on a Short Schedule

My biking need has dwindled from about 150 miles per week to maybe 30 miles per week as I finish my thesis (yay!). Between schooling and family, I have less time for extracurriculars. If I really want to get a good workout on a bike (here in mostly flat north Texas), I have to be gone for about an hour or more. With running, I feel it right away and really notice a difference from something as small as 3-5 kilometers/day, which takes only 15-30 minutes. I can run while Neva is brushing her teeth in the morning, and be home before she is dressed. I feel somewhat accomplished, and don't beat myself up too hard if I drive that day due to time constraints (the guilt is real as a biker anytime you drive over biking!)

5. The Distance is Shorter, yet Effective

Not only does it take a while to get a good workout on the bike, you have to go quite a long distance to get in your hour-long workout. Typically you're looking at around 15 miles, and when you're in the heart of suburbia, you've very much left the neighborhood and have ventured into the next town over. That's not to say that you can't get in your weekend long-rides of 50+ miles; that's necessary for long-distance bike training. But for maintaining a daily routine, it should be something that's tangible on a daily basis, or something you can feel comfortable keeping up with.  Biking to work daily also fits the bill, but currently, I work from home, so that one is out for me right now!

6.  You Eliminate the Morning Stress of Dealing with Cars

When you don't have to leave your neighborhood, the urgency of morning traffic does not exist. Our neighborhood is a 2 kilometer course that I can run 2-3 times, and not worry about the stress of dealing with cars trying to get to work. Once you leave the neighborhood on your bike at 7am, you're right in the heart of traffic here in Texas, breathing exhaust fumes, and dealing with impatient drivers. When running, I notice that cars actually see you much better because the pace is so different from them, which takes down the stress level. Lastly, stretching is a mandatory part of post-running procedure, so a post-run 5 minute yoga and meditation session is a great way to destress your morning and start the day.

Relax like the Nevatar!

So, to recap, I am still a bike addict, and with many friends that are marathoners, I definitely cannot call myself a runner. However, I wanted to share the value I find in cross-training to strengthen my cycling performance. Neva also alternates between running and biking for her afternoon exercises, and we make a great team when I'm running and she bikes next to me. Since I cannot end a post without showing an adorable Neva shot, here's my biking running partner in action (with an iguana in tow)!


Friday, March 18, 2016

Quick Post : Neva's Ascent

Can you all feel it?  Spring is almost here, and the biking here in Texas has been great!  Neva's been putting her Beinn 20 to good use over the past month, practicing her hand braking, shifting, and overall technique on her 'big girl' bike. Here she is about to hit the trail.  (Note : sandals were not advised by mother)

Fun Fact : If you don't have a bike trail close by, the Beinn 20 fits nicely inside the car, only needing the front wheel removed. 

The easiest riding to get to from our house is a construction site a mile down the road.  On the weekends, there are no workers, and it's a tiny mountain bikers' dream! She started out walking her bike up a steep grade.  I reminded her that realistically, when you start, there may be some walking involved.

She did well going over the bumps and large vehicle "rumples" left behind, but is still working on standing up so her legs can absorb the shock of a bumpy landscape.  At the end of the trail was a large hill that looked over a small lake below.  She made it up part way, but needed to walk the rest of the way. Downshifting uphill is also another work-in-progress.

At the top, it was the first time that she had biked to an overlook under her own power.  She walked to the edge to take in the scenery. Smiling as a flock of geese crested over the horizon, honking loudly, as they usually do around dusk. 

She sat down, proud of her accomplishment.

Then it was time for the moment of truth. Now that she had gone up, could she go down?  



Neva left us in a cloud of trail dust, rapid-fire shifting, and speeding the whole way home! Luckily, she's got her hand brakes for speed adjustments, but this girl is not one to shy away from speed. Stay tuned for next time, there may be a GoPro Neva-cam video in the near future!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Neva Is-la Biker - First Impressions on the Beinn 20 Small

It came today!  The Islabike that Neva is going to test!  After the 5 year mark last year, Neva really progressed quickly in her biking.  She went from trailer, to Wee-hoo, to tandem, and she is now ready for a fully functional bike! This now-6-year-old would tell me, "Mom, do we have to take the tandem, it's soooo slow!", unbeknownst to her that the Islabike Beinn 20 Small was on its way.

First of all, first impressions couldn't be better.

Right out of the box...seriously!

As someone who used to work for an online bike company, this packaging was suburb.  First of all, it came almost fully assembled!  All I had to do was put on the front wheel and pedals. The nice folks at Isla installed the rack and bottle cage, cut to size and installed the kickstand, and installed the upgraded tires onto the wheels. Nothing was out of place or damaged, it was perfect.  It took longer to put on my shoes and gather my biking things than for me to get this bike ready to ride. 

You've gotta love the small details Isla adds for their customers.  Their 'ready to go' set-up is convenient for bike nerds, but a sigh of relief for the bike novice that didn't want to pay a shop to put a bike together. In the picture above, you can see they added little stickers which say which pedal goes on, and which way to rotate the pedal properly for installation. A manual is included as well if necessary, with a variety of allen wrenches for adjustments.

I was also very impressed that Islabikes offers the option of tire upgrades since these bikes use 20" tires. Schwalbe Marathon tires are my go-to touring tire, and I was glad I didn't have to go directly to Schwalbe to get these tires.  Also, they installed them, which is super cool of them. 

The reason we were looking at this bike is because it really stood out from any other bikes that are in Neva's age/size range.  It has front and rear V-brakes with small hand levers, it has a 7-speed shifter on the right hand (not shown here), and a cool bell on the left hand side. You can also see that there is a real headset and stem that you can adjust if necessary.

As if good brakes and shifters weren't enough, the Beinn 20 has tons of eyelets in useful places! I found some here on the front fork, giving a possible option for running a front rack. There are eyelets for a rear rack as well at the dropouts and seat stays, and a bottle cage inside the triangle. This photo also shows the high-quality, sealed bearing hubs that come on the wheels. She'll be able to ride as many miles as she wants on these wheels.

The Beinn 20 utilizes a mountain derailleur and a wide range ratio cassette, which gives Neva plenty of shifting options on different terrain.  

Here is the kickstand installed very securely on the bottom bracket.  It's a greenfield kickstand that Isla cut down to size to fit this small frame. 

The seat is a real seat with collar!  It looks sleek and comfy.  Even after all of my research on child bike seats, I had trouble finding one for Neva, and she did have some complaints of her 'gluteus maximus' hurting every now and again on long tandem rides, making bike shorts with shammy a necessity for her. This seat is adjustable front to back, and can be angled up or down, just like an adult bike seat. 

And voila! The bike all put together!  Not only is the Beinn 20 Small the best kids' bike I've seen, it's a great bike in general with all of the options that have gone into it.  It's obvious that IslaBikes has an innovative production team that really considers the wants and needs of a young person who knows how to ride and is ready for a good bike. The color is also beautiful.  It's a purpley-pink, almost shiny magenta, that really catches the eye. You can even get decals with your child's name made and put on the bike for $14.99, how cool is that! The above pictures don't quite give it justice with the inside lighting, but the outside shots below are more true to color.

I decided I wanted to surprise Neva at school today with the bike, so I packed up the Burley Nomad trailer, tied down the Beinn 20 with 3 bungee cords (front tire removed, and inside the trailer), stuffed her windbreaker and helmet in, and was ready to roll.

We made it!  (The Beinn 20 and I, that is!)

I got the bike all set up, and hid it in the corner...

She was contemplating how she would mount my bike when I called her over, camera ready, asking if she knew what this was...

She put her finger up to her mouth, in a pondering position, and asked, "Is this my bike?"

The second I said yes, she was ready to ride it!

It fits perfectly at all the smallest settings, and she has room to grow. She rode the entire 3 miles home. Walking across crosswalks, practicing her hand brakes, ringing her bell. Her first impressions were a big thumbs up!

Right before we got home, she gave me a big smile.  She felt very accomplished after her first ride on her new bike that fits her! She's already talking of the panniers she'll add on, and more, so I'll keep you all updated!  Have some questions for Neva? We will start some Neva Q&A segments, so if you want it, we will give it to you straight from the 6-year-old's mouth!