May 29, 2014

5 Tips for Grocery Shopping by Bike

1. Find your go-to system
There’s no wrong way to shop by bike. What kind of bike you have and how many people you’re shopping for will largely dictate how you go about grocery-getting.

If you’re only shopping for yourself, or just picking up a couple things, a single backpack may do the trick. Maybe your bike is set up with a rack and you have some nice panniers with room enough to carry home a week’s worth of groceries for two or more people.

Find the best way to carry things on your bike. You may need to invest in a rack and panniers - it’s worth it.
2. Make a shopping list
You can only carry so much back with you, so know what you want and stick to the list. This takes some planning, but is worth the extra effort.
3. Be prepared for overflow
Even with a list I’ll sometimes get a few more things than planned - often it’s some fruit that looks so good I can’t pass it up! To plan for this contingency, I always bring my empty backpack to hold any overflow from my panniers and basket.
4. Shop in cycles (no pun intended!)
Once a month I make a big haul from the grocery store which requires both my large panniers, my rear basket, and my backpack. On this trip I stock up on nonperishables I like to always have on hand, but don’t need to resupply every week - things like flour, oats, rice, beans, cartons of almond milk, frozen veggies, onions, and potatoes.

Keeping my pantry stocked with the above items reduces my other weekly shopping trips to simply replacing fresh foods we go through every week - greens, fruit, fresh veggies, and dairy.
5. Have a routine
I go grocery shopping pretty much every Sunday. It’s my habit and makes it easier to plan meals for the week, make a list, and go. I’m never trying to think of when can I fit in in, instead I simply know it’s something I have to do on Sunday.

If you have the option of shopping by car, and you feel pressed for time, you probably won’t ride your bike. Don’t make a decision every time, instead make it a habit to go by bike.

May 23, 2014

Bike into an Active Lifestyle

Getting a significant amount of daily exercise used to be a challenge for me, but when I got a new job in 2010, I started biking about seven miles to work. As such, a sizable dose of daily exercise became the norm rather than the exception. On the recreational side, I was really getting into touring and bike camping, extending my rides tens of miles and hours in the saddle, getting a feel for what I was capable of.
Around this time, I started tracking my physical activity in a log I have faithfully kept to this day. It can be easy to feel like you’ve been active when you’ve really been a couch potato. I know, I’ve been there. The log is not so easily fooled! 
Before the boost in activity from my longer bike commute, I struggled to meet my goal of averaging one hour of exercise a day. Days would go by with nothing to record in my log. Then when I felt motivated, I’d go to the UW-Madison rec center to pound out a few (boring) miles on the treadmill, journey on a long walk around town, do some yoga, or on occasion take my vintage Schwinn on what felt like an epic ride of 20 miles. Yet, I never created a habit out of any of it that amounted to much exercise - my log made that clear.
Since then, my experiences with biking have given me confidence to try new fitness activities, like long-distance running, bouldering, and CrossFit. Having established the habit of daily exercise has made it easier to integrate these new activities into my lifestyle, maybe like learning a second foreign language. 
Now I have no problem surpassing what were once goals I struggled to achieve. My exercise log is documentation of how far I’ve come and a way for me to celebrate my success. 
Try biking for transportation as the first step toward an active lifestyle. You don’t need to be in shape to get started, it’s easy to fit into your day, and it will make you feel good. Keep track of your progress. In the beginning, your bike may just get you to work - then see where else it takes you!

May 15, 2014

A Stand of Trees

There’s something romantic about changing into your party clothes with only the cover of a few bare trees and your husband yelling, “car!” when you need to duck down.
Our friend’s annual Kentucky Derby party isn’t an event you want to miss - the company and mint juleps can’t be beat. So when our friends moved out to the country near Cross Plains a few years ago, we continued to bike to the party. 
On account of a stiff headwind topping 20 mph, this year’s trip was slow going on the Military Ridge State Trail and became a real struggle when we turned off the trail onto hilly country roads. I had a couple heart-sinking moments while grinding up a hill into the wind and realizing I already was in my lowest gear. I groaned, yelled out, and spun my legs vehemently to make it to the top.

I was happy when we could see our au naturel changing area off in the distance - it meant we had only about a mile left! We grabbed our panniers stuffed with our party clothes and headed down the ditch and into the trees. For the full story of packing and changing in this manner, check out this video post I made last year.
After changing and freshening up, Peter and I rode off to the party, pulling up looking like we didn’t bike.

May 13, 2014

Rainy Day Go-Bag

It’s time for spring showers. Instead of groaning about the weather, I put together a rainy day go-bag.
I already owned decent rain gear, so a little rain was not the problem, rather it was the hassle of getting all my stuff together. Rifling through my coat closet to find rain pants and searching a bin of camping gear for a dry sack, when I should have already been out the door and well on my way, was no fun. By the time I had found everything, it was difficult to retain a good attitude about riding through the rain - it was already an inconvenience.
So that rainy days no longer upset my morning routine, I put all my rain gear in a dry sack and keep it stashed somewhere easily accessible. Maybe the sky is clear on my way to work, but it’ll be raining when I’m heading home -  I just grab my rainy day go-bag and well, go!
Here’s what’s in my bag: rain pants, small dry sack, and lightweight rain jacket with a hood.
My backpack is water-resistant and will keep its contents dry in a light shower, but in heavier rain I slide it into the large dry sack before putting it in my bike basket. Anything I want to easily access - phone, keys, wallet, - I put in the small dry sack, which also goes into my basket.

May 5, 2014

Easy Painted Bike Bell DIY

A compass bike bell I had gotten as a souvenir from Berlin broke off my bike last winter and I didn't rush to replace it, but now that the bike paths are brimming with people, a bell comes in handy. Yeah, I could yell out, "On your left!" but have found this less effective than the ding of a bell.
I made a couple of personalized bells as Christmas gifts and was happy with how they turned out (though I accidentally dropped one of them in the snow before the enamel dried). The process was a bit time-consuming. Then I got the idea to try using paint pens, which would be faster and easier for creating a design on a bell.
I picked up some paint pens from the craft store, along with a shiny new bell from my neighborhood bike shop, and got to work.
 Again with the triangles! I'm obsessed!
The fine-tipped paint pens worked great. The paint flowed evenly in a nice thin line.
I only wanted to apply the enamel to the dome of the bell, so I wrapped some paper around it and sprayed on the enamel per the instructions on the canister. Now the paint can't be scratched off (I tried).
I love the final bell from this quick and easy DIY!

May 2, 2014

Boulder, Bike, and Brew - Round Two

I’d gotten used to always having the best bike parking place at Boulder’s Climbing Gym over the winter. Now when I pull up, it’s already taken. The main bike racks brimming with bikes is a clear sign that warm weather has arrived.
Last Thursday night my primo parking spot was available - the rainy weather likely kept more people from riding. Still, the racks were quite full with the bikes of those who know the fun of a group ride outweighs getting a little wet. I headed in for a bouldering session with my fellow climbing and biking enthusiasts - it was the first Boulder, Bike, and Brew of the season!
Those of us participating in the ride were united by our red wrist bands, chalk-covered hands, and rain gear drip-drying on the coat rack. After a final attempt at our project routes, we geared up and assembled in the parking lot to ride in the rain to One Barrel Brewing Co. Some say that chocolate milk is the best post-workout beverage. Nope, I’m pretty sure it’s beer.