Thursday, August 20, 2009

Home remedies - don't leave home without them

Recently I traveled with some of the LUNA Chix to San Francisco for a weekend summit. One of the girls was suffering so badly from a head cold that she could hardly breathe. I pulled out a couple bottles of oils and asked her if she wanted to try a home remedy for sinus congestion. She was willing to try anything.

I heated water and poured it into a bowl, got a towel, and told her to put the towel over hear head and put her face about 6 inches from the bowl after I dropped the oil in. I dropped a few drops of Eucalyptus oil and a few drops of Whiteflower oil in the bowl of hot water, and Denise leaned over the bowl to breathe the steam. I had told her she would come up choking after a couple breaths, but that she should continue to breathe the steam as much as she could.

To her surprise and delight, breathing the eucalyptus and menthol steam did the trick. Her nose started to clear and she could breathe again.

People have asked me about these home remedies and the things I carry when traveling. Here's my quick things I almost always have with me or that I have quick access to. Most of these oils are available at a good health food store. The sports supplements can be found at a good bike shop or online. Always check with your physician before taking any supplements or medications.

ome remedies for common ailments

For bruising and general antiseptic - good to have on trail rides

Arnica oil for bruising

Apply arnica oil directly to a bruise (but not to broken skin) immediately after an injury to minimize bruising. Arnica sublingual tablets work well too.

Tea tree oil - Antisceptic for almost all skin conditions; gargle for sore throat
Apply Tea tree oil directly to a cut, scrape, fungus, insect or spider bite.
To relieve a sore throat, drop a few drops of Tea tree oil in warm water and gargle with it (but do not swallow it).

Eucalyptus, Wintergreen and Whiteflower oil

Eucalyptus oil and *Whiteflower oil (or menthol) for stuffy nose / nasal drip
To clear a stuffy nose, pour boiling or very hot water into a bowl. Drop a few drops each of Eucalyptus oil and Witeflower oil in the bowl, cover your head with a towel and lean over the bowl with your nose about 6 inches from the water, breathing the steam that rises from the bowl.

*Whiteflower oil is a mixture of Wintergreen, Menthol, Camphor, Eucalyptus, Peppermint, and Lavender.

Sports supplements I always have with me.

Sportlegs and Eletewater for cramping
Cramping is often caused by electrolyte imbalance.
Prevent and relieve muscle cramps by taking calcium, magnesium and potassium, the electrolytes found in Sportlegs capsules and Eletewater liquid supplement. Follow the directions on the bottle. For immediate relief of muscle cramps, break open two Sportlegs capsules and down the contents with 6-8 oz of water.

To prevent monthy cramps, drink 8-10 glasses of water with Eletewater the day before your period starts, or drink 16 oz of water with Eletewater at the first sign of cramping or menstruation. Keep drinking 8-10 glasses of water with Eletewater daily to keep cramps at bay. I used to get debilitating cramps before I discovered this, and I promise you it works. Eletewater also is available in capsule form (Tablytes).

Hot pack/cold pack

Apply a cold pack to new injuries to reduce swelling and slow blood-flow. Often the post-trauma swelling causes additional injury. Use a cold pack for the first 48-92 hours after an injury.
Reusable cold pack: two parts water or ice and one part rubbing alcohol in a zipper freezer bag. Refreeze as needed. You can also use a bag of frozen peas. Reuse the bag of peas, but mark it so you don't eat it.

Add heat to get blood flowing. Use heat after the third day or more following an injury.
Reusable hot pack:
put a damp wash cloth in a zipper freezer bag. Microwave for 30 seconds. Instant hot pack.

For additional information on pharmaceutical-free treatments and sports injuries, I recommend the book Prescription for Nutritional Healing, by Phyllis Balch, and The Best Natural Sports Medicine Book Ever by Dr. William Wong.

If you have any of your own home remedies that you would like to share, please tell me about them in the comments section. I'd love to hear them.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

My first Midnight Madness (from 2007)

Last night I attended my third San Diego Midnight Madness bike ride. Because people want to know where the pumps came from, here's the story of the first Midnight Madness I attended. Enjoy!

Midnight Madness, San Diego

18 Aug 2007

"So, are you going to Midnight Madness?" my friend Lauren asks me.
"What's Midnight Madness?" I ask.

"It's this bike ride in downtown San Diego that starts at midnight and goes for like, 20 miles, and people dress up in costumes and there's a lot of general silliness."

"Cool. I'm in. When?"

As I think about what kind of cool costume I could wear, the days tick down to Saturday. Thursday afternoon on a group ride, I tell one of the girls about Midnight Madness, comment that I don't have a costume, and admit that I might just have to go in bike clothes. But, as I think about it, I realize that I go to the "office" (the bike shop where I work) quite often in bike clothes. So, it would only be fitting if I go to the bike ride in office clothes. And the little wheels inside my head start turning...

That night I come home and enlist the help of my husband, who is only too eager to pull out the power tools.

Because the shoes really do make the outfit...

I sacrifice a pair of old pumps for the ride, and take the seam ripper to the skirt portion of an old business suit. Totally worth it.

Although I try to run the Time cleats and pedals that I'm used to, the SPD's with the adjustable spring tension are easier to get out of.

SPD pumps

The whole ensemble with my Lemon fixie.

My "Lemon" used to be a LeMond, but... hmmm. Yeah. Now it's a Lemon. It was almost an Emo Lemon, but... meh, there's always time for that. (For you fixie aficionados, I'm geared for commuting in hills at 64" - 38x16).

DHS and JonKranked, my riding buddies for the night.

We pick up our ride numbers and a route map at registration.

The staging area early in the evening. In short order there will be about 2500 people and bikes crowding the space.



Laura the Cycling Business Commuter (with the obligatory banana in the back )

(and of course, I had to pin my number on like I was in some crit or something...)

Kranked on his fixie with a mask that serves the dual purpose of restricting air supply and limiting one's field of vision. Ideal for a 20-mile night ride.

In the pic below, Jon tries to pet his furry friend. DHS says he was "petted" four or five times, and had no idea who in the crowd had done it.

Hey! Hands to yourself, buddy!

My friend Lauren (who got me into this) with her friend Les

Just before the ride, DHS, Kranked, and I get on our bikes and go to the Gas Lamp district of downtown San Diego in search of food. Of course there are lines to get into everywhere. We finally decide to cut our losses and go to Hooters. The guys want food; I'll settle for French fries.

After a quick meal and minimal libation (because it is so slow trying to get a pitcher of beer; you'd think guys go to Hooters just to, like, hang out or something), we head back to the venue. I don't want to miss the costume contest. As I understand, no one has done this ride in pumps before.
I'm hopeful I'll place in the contest, which is completely unrealistic. I have never seen what people do to decorate their bikes and themselves, and when I get there I'm stunned.

The winning entry is actually a functional bicycle built for six in a Hawaiian theme, with people in grass skirts, a built-in cooler in the middle, and a bubble machine. Yep, they did more prep than me.

A bicycle built for six...

Once back at the venue, it occurs to us that we have only another 20 minutes before the ride begins and we're all sober. Time to remedy that situation. With no time to spare, we hop on our bikes and head out into the dark. We find a package store a few miles away, grab the necessary supplies, and dash back to the staging area, where we have about 5 minutes before the gun goes off.

Brent in a kilt, looking for trouble

DHS at the ride start

The ride about to begin

They count down the start time, and riders take off. It's a really slow start with so many people trying to squeeze through the entrance. Unfortunately they are not letting us run traffic lights, so groups of people get separated.

The first light we come to, I call out, "OK, everybodeeeeee... Trackstand!" Just then this guy to my right falls over clipped in. Ooops.

The general mood is fun and playful. People chat with those around them, making jokes about costumes, and laughing in delight at the creativity around them. We're all feeling just a bit mischievous; after all, it's after midnight, we're wearing silly costumes and riding our bikes in the middle of Pacific Highway. I mean, do the adults out there know we're doing this? The puckish mood of the evening grabs onto DHS right as a rickshaw rolls past us. It's just too much of a temptation to pass up...

DHS skitching a ride. The rickshaw driver was not happy... We thought it was hilarious.

More interesting people...

Yes, he did the whole 20 miles on that bike.

Fat suit guy

Girl wearing her teddy...

Mostly it was fun talking to people on the ride and just enjoying being out amongst the craziness, and being a part of the craziness.

The looks on people faces when they saw me in a business suit was pretty good, but seeing the look when they realized I was clipped in with the pumps was priceless! And while it was really rad to do a 20-mile ride in SPD pumps, by about mile 18, I was feeling it.

"Aw, man, these have got to be the WORST cycling shoes I have ever worn!" I exclaim to no one in particular.

"Hmmm, whatcha got?" some guy asks me.

"Prada!" I answer, and clip out for him to see the SPD on the bottom of the pump. He nearly fell over. It was a great time.

Thanks Lauren, for convincing me to go, and thanks DHS and Kranked for being great riding buddies. :)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Riding with Children - Fun for Everyone!

(cross-posted from Sunny Rides)

Several years ago when I first started cycling, I thought that "bicycling with children," meant that the kids would all be on their own bikes, I would be on mine, and we would have to go as slow (fast?) as the youngest could manage to pedal. Oh, and we would have to stay within two blocks of the house, because kids have a low tolerance for activities lasting longer than ten minutes (at least this is what I remember from the forced marches my dad used to take us on, that, in reality, were only a half-mile). I thought riding with kids would be somewhat... tedious.

This was before I learned about the many possibilities out there for riding bikes with children.

Riding with children: the first year or two
From about five weeks old, I had my baby in a Burley bike trailer. Burley makes an infant snuggler, which they tell you is not intended to be used with the trailer when it is attached to a bike, but only with the unit used as a stroller. Blah blah blah... whatev. Jane and I have been having great bike experiences for months!

Jane at 5 weeks in the Burley trailer with the infant snuggler.

I like this trailer because it's light-weight and has 20-inch tires. Most trailers come in one and two-seater models. If you have two kids, consider whether one will antagonize the other while in the trailer. If they ride from infancy, you will have less issue then if you start when one is
three and the other is 12 months. A better option in this case might be: child seat attached to your bike and a trail-a-bike in addition (more about that in a moment).

Helmet note: If your child is in a bike trailer, he may not not need to wear a helmet. Most trailers come with a rollbar and 5-point safety harness. If the child is not protected by the trailer, make sure he is wearing a helmet. Since Jane is protected by the trailer and reclines while in it, she does not wear a helmet in the trailer.

If you do it right, by the time they can express opinions, your kids will let you know it's time to saddle up and go. I opened the garage one morning to ready the bike, leaving the house and side garage doors open. Jane crawled outside the house as I darted back inside to get water. By the time I returned, Jane had crawled to the front of the garage and was waiting for me next to the trailer.

C'mon Mom! Let's go ride!

Riding with children: 12 months - 3 years

Once the child's head is large enough for a helmet (48 cm in circumference) and he can safely sit up and hold his head while wearing a helmet without his neck getting tired, he's usually old enough for the bike child seat.

The bike child seat fits onto a rear rack that is bolted onto your bike. Advantages over the trailer are that a child seat costs significantly less than a trailer, you have better maneuverability, and you are not dragging a 28 lbs trailer in addition to the weight of the child. However, I like being able to give Jane a bottle and let her play with toys as we ride. We can ride when it's cold, because I can cover her with a blanket. Were she in a bike kid seat, bottle and toys would be dropped or thrown long before we reached the first mile marker, and we would have to curtail our activity in really chilly weather.

If you anticipate 45-minute rides in moderate weather, or have two small children who might not do well together in a trailer, a bike kid seat is probably your best option for the younger one. Most bike kid seats have a weight capacity of 40 lbs.

Riding with children 3 - 10 years old

When my little 8-year-old friend Esther was in town from New Mexico and asked me if we could ride bikes,
I found her a loaner bike of her own, but even better than that, a friend lent me his Trail-a-bike. A Trail-a-bike allows the adult to be in control, allows the child to rest when she gets tired, and best of all, makes the ride much more predictable, knowing that the child will not get distracted and ride into traffic - she's connected to your bike.

The Trail-a-bike gave Esther and me tremendous freedom! We were able to take water and snacks and ride 3 miles down the bike path to the stables and see the horses. We were able to ride for short stretches on the road in the bike lane without me having to worry about Esther riding into traffic. Suddenly riding with a kid was really fun!

Given the choice of her own bike to ride and riding on the Trail-a-bike, Esther usually chose the Trail-a-bike. She especially liked going really fast down the hills!

Regardless of his age, there's a bike or bike attachment that's right for your child. Start them early, and ride often!

Friday, August 07, 2009

Cycling and an Instant Community

One of the great things about riding a bike is that you have an instant community of people who share your interest for cycling and the outdoors. Regardless of your skill level, you can find people to ride with and learn from if you just look around a bit. Wait, wait! I know what you're saying: But I'm slow/not very good... there's not really anyone for me to ride with.

Au contraire!

When I learned how to mountain bike, I had the good fortune of being about as self-aware as a puppy running in a park. I had no idea that I was going out riding for my first time with a couple of guys who were Cat 1 (Expert level) downhill racers. Even if I had known, it would not have occurred to me that I might be slowing them down, and that they might enjoy their ride more without me tagging along and crashing all the time. They asked me to go riding, so I went.

Good thing I was more excited about mountain biking than worried about what other people were thinking, because the assumption that I would be a damper on their fun would have been completely wrong.

People of different abilities do things together all the time, and the more skilled have just as much fun as the novices. For example, my mom enjoys the outdoors, but is not very athletic. But if she asked me to take her hiking, I would jump at the chance. Not because I could show her how nimble-footed I am, or how much gear I can carry, or how I could make it to the top first. No way. I would enjoy just being with her, doing something challenging together, and I would delight in her triumphs up the hill. We might not even make it up to the top, but that wouldn't be important. The important part is just getting outside with good company.

Similarly, when someone of greater ability than you asks you to go bike riding, it's not because your he is looking for a hammer-fest training ride and wants to see how fast he can drop you. Especially if it's someone who knows he is a better or faster rider than you. Most people enjoy the company, and truly don't mind helping others along or waiting for them.

There will always be people better than you who will be delightful to ride with, as well as others who are miserable to ride with. Don't let your fears about holding people up, or a past bad experience with a particular rider interfere with your getting out on the bike with others. Of course, you should know what you're getting yourself into and be careful not to get in over your head, but also know that when someone asks you to ride, she usually hopes you will come along.

If you are the one doing the asking, tell the more experienced rider that you want to do a relaxed ride, and what duration you'd like the ride to be. If your hammer-head friend turns you down with no encouragement, she may be one of those who only takes long hard rides; don't take it personally. You might ask her if she knows someone you could ride with.

Finally, if you are looking for someone to ride with and simply know no one, here are a few resources:

Women's specific:
For any cyclist looking for road or mountain riders: Bike Meet-up
Just enter your ZIP code on the right for the list of groups in your area. Or try this one.

Good list of Bike Clubs

If you've tried these places and still can't find a person or a group, contact me. I'll find you someone to ride with or gather a group of people myself. :)

Now go outside and play!

Laura is a member of the San Diego Team LUNA Chix, a group of eight women who organize and lead local bike rides, sports skills and informational clinics, and host charitable events benefiting the Breast Cancer Fund. For information on LUNA Chix bike rides, please see:, and click on San Diego.