Monday, November 12, 2012

Veteran's Day

Today for Veteran's Day, Jane and I went to the Veteran's Day Parade in downtown San Diego. Any time we salute our veterans or or thank them in any way, I explain to Jane that these men and women all fought with Captain America against the bad guys, and that it's important that we say thank you, and recognize them as heroes.

Only once before had I been to a San Diego Veteran's Day parade, and I forgot how much of a hometown feel there is to it. Everyone is right there close enough to speak to. As we waved at people, we were close enough to tell them "thank you," and hear them respond. 

We were not far from a corner near the end of the parade route, so occasionally the parade would stop in front of us, waiting for a group to turn the corner. At one point, with a number of troops in front of us (vets of different ages), I was somewhat overcome and burst into a decent rendition of God Bless America. 

I FULLY expected everyone to join in with me, as I had envisioned a crowd singing together with voices united in a big Veteran's Day warm fuzzy moment. Of course, I got to the end of the song and realized that the only ones who had joined in were the troops in front of us, who, by the end of the song, had turned the corner and were gone. I was singing solo on the streets of downtown San Diego. No matter, I was in the Veteran's Day groove.

As the parade passed by and some of the older Vets walked alongside the parade shaking hands with kids, I encouraged Jane to go up and shake hands or even give a hug to a veteran. One older man, obviously a VietNam Vet with a big welcoming smile and easy manner was shaking hands with the kids as he passed. I told Jane she should give him a hug. As she walked toward him with her arms outstretched and he realized what was happening, he hugged her back and almost burst into tears. After he passed, I told Jane that she really made his day.

A few minutes later, a Navy unit was passing by, and stopped in front of us. I told Jane to run up and shake the hand of the man standing alongside the rows of men and women. Evidently it was a good choice, because she came back with a gold coin from the commanding officer of ARCO ARDM-5Medium Auxiliary Repair Dry Dock. She told me he was like Father Al. If the children ask our priest, Father Al, for a blessing at church (the proper way to greet a priest), he gives the children coins. 

Jane was good for a little over an hour's worth of parade, then she was ready for something else. Since we were both hungry, we rode the bike (I had brought bike and Weehoo trailer so we could park anywhere) down to the Embarcadero and got pizza. While we were eating our pizza, I asked Jane what was her favorite part of the parade. She said, "All those peoples, and I got a flag, and that man, I made him's day." 

Indeed. That was the best part of my day, too.

Mom - thanks for always encouraging us as kids to give a hug and a kiss to the veterans we saw, and to tell them thank you. I'll do my best to pass the torch to the next generation.

Veteran friends - thank you so much for your service, for enduring the bad food and ill-fitting clothing, the blisters, bug bites, the tedium of ill-informed superior officers, and all those things too terrible to mention. We love you so very much!

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

How I Became a Team LUNA Chix Gal

Patty was our coach, riding sweep behind me that morning as I churned and puffed my way up the hills, practicing the course of the Columbia Triathlon. We crested the first major hill about five miles into our 25-mile ride, and my heart sank. Rising in the distance was an even longer hill. I wiped my nose on my cycling glove, put my head down, and continued to pedal in silence. When I crested the second hill, all but ready to collapse, and saw the road descended in a smooth gentle slope as far as I could see, I burst into sobs and blurted out, "I will not die young and fat, like the women in my family!"
I continued to sob a bit as Patty rode up alongside me, and asked, "Are you OK?"
I wiped the tears from my face and told her I'd never been better. She replied, "That's like, the best thing I've ever heard on a ride in my life."

I had recently lost my maternal grandmother and great aunt to heart disease, diabetes, and personal negligence. My (yet unborn) children and grandchildren deserved better. That day on the hill, I chose to become an athlete and take my fate by the horns. Perhaps I wouldn't have complete control, but I could certainly guide it.

Me and my mentor Lisa (left) in Maryland, training for the Seagull Century Ride.

I first got into cycling the way I got into foreign language study: I saw it as a challenge. When I started studying Russian in college, I had no idea where it would take me, but it knew that it was hard, and I knew I couldn't fake the results. I would learn it and succeed, or fail by my own efforts. Similarly, I began cycling as a way of proving to myself that I could do something difficult: I wanted to do an Olympic-distance triathlon even though I couldn't swim a lap in a pool at the time. But I was teachable, and I would learn.

My first real ride with a seasoned cycling group came in Ellicott City, Maryland, on the hilly course that was the Columbia Triathlon course. I finished that triathlon, completing my goals: 1) don't stop, 2) finish 3) don't be in pain afterwards. 

One of the best things to come out of that triathlon for me was the knowledge that I couldn't have done it without the people around me who coached me, cheered for me, and helped me put one foot in front of the other when I thought I couldn't go any further. Now I HAD to get stronger and become a better rider, because I wanted to BE one of those people. I wanted to be a mentor.

The opportunity came three years later, when I met the San Diego Team LUNA Chix and applied to the team. When asked about special skills, I told them I could make complex ideas simple for people, and that I could kill snakes if need be. I was brought onto the team. 

Group ride with Team LUNA Chix San Diego to Cabrillo Monument.

Much of what we do as Team LUNA Chix members is fairly straight-forward: lead rides, raise money for the Breast Cancer Fund, support local events, etc. But a large part is never seen or really known, which is the mentoring that we are blessed with the opportunity to be a part of. 

On a recent ride, our major Breast Cancer Fund fund-raiser from Oceanside, we had a record-breaking 65 participants. As I looked over the crowd of 25-mile riders and started making announcements, I knew the group was too large to properly care for and sweep, so I had them count off, each calling out a number, "One, TWO!, three... Oh! That's me. Four!... etc." There were 33 riders assigned to four LUNAs. Knowing that we would be pressed to properly care for all of them, I encouraged them to introduce themselves to the person they would be riding next to, and to buddy up. I told them to look out for their buddy, and tell someone if they were going to ride ahead or drop back. Meanwhile, I rode sweep.

There were a couple occasions when I got to really use the knowledge that had been handed down to me. One was realizing the trouble the rider in the back was having on the hills. I employed a trick I used when I was riding a fixie around town: count the pedal strokes to the top of the hill. I got to be a fairly good predictor of the number of pedal strokes needed.

"OK, looks like you need to pedal about 35 more strokes to get to the top. Let's count them off: 1-2-3..." up to ten. "OK! Great Next set of ten! 1-2-3..." and so we rode up to the top of the hill. She told me later she thought she would not have made it if I hadn't been there. I smiled, "And that's why I'm here!" I told her.

A bit later, heading up another hill, her chain suddenly derailled to the inside, becoming jammed in the bottom bracket. We stopped, and after some tugging on the chain, and another cyclist stopping to assist, we realized her bike needed a mechanic and proper tools. I told the man who had stopped for us, "Well, I'll flag down a truck and get her a ride." 
"Oh," he looked surprised, "you have SAG?" he asked, referring to the motorized support some rides have.
"Well, we have SAG, but the driver doesn't know it yet..." I said with a smile, and stepped to the road. 

We were on Camp Pendleton, the USMC base north of San Diego. I've been a Navy wife since 1991, and know that most people on base are happy to assist if asked. I waited for a truck, then stuck my thumb out. Sure enough, the man stopped, then backed up to us. 
"What's your situation?" he asked in true military style. I was really glad for this, otherwise I might have launched into the story of her climbing the hill, struggling, then the trouble with the chain... but he helped me focus.
"Her bike is unrideable. She needs a ride to the gate or to Oceanside Harbor," I said plainly.
"I can do that. Load her up," he told me. I asked him if he'd like a LUNA bar, and he said that would be great, because his last name was Moon. Haha.
I made sure phone numbers were exchanged between the girl, Mr Moon, and myself, so we could all check in later. Then set out to catch the rest of my group.

At the end of the ride, the girl caught up with me in the parking lot, telling me how great it was that even though things didn't go as planned, she had a good ride and a very positive experience. She seemed embarrassed by needing special care, so I told her, "Trust me, there have been plenty of people taking care of me along the way. Some day you'll be able to do the same for another rider. You will." When this was told to me years ago, I didn't really believe it, but looked for opportunities anyway. They always present themselves.

I want to thank my mentors and teachers who have brought me to this point. There are more than I can name, but I will name a few: 
Grandmother Ann - thank you for teaching me to love people, to love work, and to love myself
Mom - thank you for being an amazing example of strength and compassion
Dad - thanks for the forced marches. I'm learning to appreciate them, and to value the athletic legacy you gave us.
CJ in Maryland - you're the best mentor ever. I'll always adore you.
Coach Patti - thanks for hanging in there with me on those hills and letting me ride at my own pace.
Coach Lisa F - thanks for encouraging me to do the Seagull Century. I couldn't have done it without you!
Chad M- thanks for not letting on that anything I ever did was impressive. It always made me try harder.
Nancy H- thank you for being the shining light of encouragement that you are, and inviting me to ride with No Brakes Racing.
Eric C- thanks for being a great example of what a champion should be, and helping me to finally make friends with my front brake.
And largely, big thanks to my husband Steve, who waited patiently for me as I eek-eek-eek'ed my way down the hills when I first started riding road bikes, then wordlessly took me to the ER when I started crashing mountain bikes a few years later. You're the best friend and companion a girl could have.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Explaining 9/11 to my 4-year-old

It was Sunday, September 9, 2012, when I realized it was... Sunday, September 9.

For the past few days, when I would notice a calendar and see that once again it would soon be Tuesday, September 11, my pulse would quicken, my throat would begin to close, and tears would start to well in my eyes before I could push the emotions down, refocus, and move forward. In those micro-seconds of grief, my mind would invariably flood with images of the last time it was Sunday, September 9... I was running a sprint triathlon on the Jersey Shore, the sun was high, there was a cool breeze in the air, and life was good. 

Lower Manhattan from the Jersey side

For the past few days, I just wanted to go back and see things as they were, the Manhattan skyline like I remembered seeing it from the Jersey side, one more time. I didn't want Tuesday to come, and a part of me dreaded it.

One of the more profound things associated with 9/11 for me, was getting turned away from the blood bank in the days that followed the attack. For someone who is O-negative, a universal donor, who gets phone calls from the blood bank the day I'm legal to donate again, getting turned away was something uncanny. It seemed all the donors had come out to donate, but there were no survivors to donate to. I remember sitting in my car outside the center, weeping.

Now it's eleven years later, and it's again Tuesday, September 11.  My four-year-old daughter Jane and I enter Balboa Park, looking for a hot dog and "free Tuesdays" admission. As we near the fountain at the south end of the park, I notice a large 9/11 Memorial display, and slow my pace as I walk, her little hand in mine. 

Do I tell her the story? She's only four. The horrific images of the planes crashing into the Towers are in bright colors on the long display walls, along with images of the survivors, firefighters, police, and all the chaos that was Tuesday, September 11. 

I take a breath and lean down on one knee, drawing her close and pointing to the images as I tell her the story.

"Eleven years ago, before you were born, a terrible thing happened. Evil men wanted to hurt people."

"Why?" she asks.

"Because evil people will always want to hurt good people and take away what they have. That's why good people need to be strong, so they can fight the bad people." (Credit here goes to Dennis Prager for the pithy brilliance of this statement.) 


I take a breath, and use the story of The Incredibles to help me tell the story of 9/11. "Remember how Syndrome sent a giant robot to hurt people? Well, these bad men used airplanes instead of robots, and they flew them into buildings to try to hurt people," I tell her. "And a lot of people died."

She looks at the pictures, seeing people with blood and ash on their arms and faces, and asks, "Why them have blood?" 

"They probably got hurt when something fell on them," I tell her. She gazes at the images a few more seconds, then buries her head in my neck. 

I take a deep breath.

"But that's not the whole story," I tell her, quickly realizing I need to give her more information. "Do you remember when Mr Incredible and Frozone went into the burning building to save the people before it collapsed? Well, they had superheroes in New York City, too. See all these people going down the stairway, but the firefighters are going up? They're going in to save people." 

Note: There were 10,000 people or more evacuated from both towers that day, but this information is rarely remembered. We only remember the nearly 3000 that died.

I point to the images of people covered in ash, walking hand-in-hand from the rubble, "See these people? They didn't know each other. But they are helping each other to find safety. See this man? How he's hurt, but he's still helping this lady? They don't know each other, but they are helping each other like brother and sister..." 

"See these people? They're all working together, not like the people in the movies who scream and run away."

"See this one? They didn't know each other, but they're holding hands like brothers and sisters. This picture shows how they cared for each other, even when they were all very scared." 

"And this man here that is being carried out. Is he a fireman?" I ask her.
"Yes," she says.
"It looks like he's a fireman, because he's wearing a helmet and a fireman's jacket. But look at his shoes. Those are office shoes. This man was working at his office, and he got hurt. But a fireman came and rescued him, and gave him his helmet, and his jacket, so he wouldn't get hurt by anything else. These men are saving his life..."

And as I point out the triumph in each of the pictures, my own story of 9/11 shifts from one of grief and anger, to the story it was in the days immediately following the attack: the story of courage and unity in the face of absolute chaos and destruction. It becomes the story of the triumph of the human spirit, of endurance, and resilience. It becomes the story of the amazing orderly evacuation of over 10,000 people from two burning buildings, and the people who turned and walked straight into danger in the hopes of doing good for someone else. It's the story of people coming together like brothers and sisters, and choosing to take care of each other. 

I look at the wall of images and names, and suddenly, I don't dread Tuesday, Septerber 11, any more.

Monday, August 20, 2012

What's a Company Picnic without a Bike Care Class?

I recently had the opportunity through Team LUNA Chix San Diego Cycle to conduct a Bike Care Class at the URS Corp company picnic. It was a great experience, and the second year Team LUNA Chix has been invited to participate.

I was to present a 20-minute Basic Bike Care presentation followed by a Hands-on Flat-changing Clinic. But with all the distractions of a company picnic like hamburgers, the shade tree, and jumpy houses (seriously, there was jumpy that looked like a small version of American Gladiator), I knew I needed something to generate interest in my clinic. So I devised a contest for anyone to enter, and announced that the first correct answer drawn at random would win a new multi-tool, courtesy of Steve Richey at (thanks for everything you taught me, Steve!).

I put two similar road bikes side-by-side with a sign:

You are commuting to work and expect to arrive home just before dusk. 

Which bike is ready to ride?

Submit your name and answer (Bike 1 or Bike 2)
along with a brief description of why you made the choice you did. 

We announced the contest, and stated that the drawing would take place just before the Basic Bike Care presentation. It worked like a charm, as people began coming over to look at the bikes, feel the tires, test out the lights, feel the brakes, etc. 

checking over the two road bikes

filling out an entry card to win the mulit-tool

When it came time to draw, there was a crowd of about 15-20 people. A woman who had answered correctly, "Bike 2 is ready because Bike 1 has no rear light" won the multi-tool. I asked the crowd what else they had noticed that might render Bike 1 not ready to ride. I was surprised that none of them, not even the seasoned riders in the crowd, noticed that the front brake caliper of Bike 1 was wide open. With steam from the drawing, I was able to segway immediately into the Basic Bike Care presentation, and the A-B-C's of riding.

A - Air. Always make sure your tires have sufficient air before you ride. On a road bike, if you can put any dent with your fingertips into the sidewall of the tire, the tire needs air. 
Before group rides, I will always go around and feel the tires. It's remarkable the number of people who think they have 100 psi when they have no more than 75 psi. Riding under-inflated tires is a quick way to get a pinch flat. Road tires should be pumped up almost every time you ride.

B - Brakes. Always spin the wheel to make sure it is not rubbing, and then grab the brake lever to make sure the brake is working properly. 

C - Chain and Cables. Make sure the chain runs smoothly across the teeth of the front rings and rear cassette. If you touch the chain and get blackened fingers from grease, it's probably you are using too much chain lube. Wipe off the excess. If you tough the chain and it feels dry, you may need to use a bit more chain lube. 
Cables are the lifelines to smooth shifting. If your cables are starting to get rusty from exposure, or you notice an end that is starting to fray, it's probably time to get a new cable installed. If you need your bike seen by a professional, do your mechanic a favor and clean up your bike before taking it in for repairs. It's a courtesy that will be greatly appreciated.

Before every ride, take 30 seconds to check your bike's A-B-C's. 

how to clean a chain

I took a moment during the presentation to show the crowd how easy it is to clean a chain, and quizzed them on the things I had just told them. Anyone who got a correct answer got a cassette brush, courtesy of Pedro's Bike Care Products

The Basic Bike Care presentation was followed by the Hands-on Flat-Changing Clinic. Although I only had three takers for this portion, they were eager to learn, and very excited that they could learn to remove and replace a rear wheel so easily. As a thank-you for attending, they each got either a multi-tool or a chin tool. 

Big thanks go to my "Janie-on-the-spot" LUNA teammate Cindy, who has helped me with several clinics and is always a great support! Thanks, Cindy!

Team LUNA Chix San Diego Cycle presented the Bike Care Clinic as part of an ongoing fundraising effort for the Breast Cancer Fund. I'd like to thank URS Corp, on behalf of Team LUNA Chix San Diego, for their generous donation to the cause. If you would like to make a donation to the Breast Cancer Fund, please see our donation page

Friday, June 22, 2012

Learning to Ride a Bike (from Tales from the Bike Shop)

When I worked at UC Cyclery, I had the great fortune of being able to help newer riders work through their fears of getting on a bike. Here's Jake's story - one of my favorites - from June 2008.

Jake - My Customer of the Day
Jake came in today with his grandparents. Jake is eleven, and has not yet had his growth spurt. He's a good-natured, kind, loving kid, witnessed by his encouragement and support of his younger sister who also learned to ride a bike tonight, and his respect and love for his father. Jake is my customer of the day.

When he first came in with his grandparents and they told me that he needed a new bike, I turned and talked directly to Jake, and asked if he would like try an XS adult bike rather than a 24"-wheeled kid's bike. He was certainly big enough.

"No," he insisted, "I like this one better," he said as he moved timidly to the smaller bike that was clearly too small for him. Jake is a little pudgy, and probably not very active. I found out later that his grandfather, who is here on vacation from Montreal, rides a bike every day. I create an image in my mind of the grandfather who comes into town, discovers his sedentary overweight grandson, and determines to do something about it. So he drags him to the bike shop determined to get the boy on a bike. This is where come in.

"Well, if you like this [smaller] bike, let me take it to the mechanic so he can get it ready for a testride. How about that?" I ask Jake.
"Oh, no. I don't need to ride it. It'll be fine," he tells me.

He's afraid of riding the bike.

"What's the thing that's keeping you from riding the bike?" I ask.
He hesitates, then confesses, "Um, I have the wrong shoes."

I look at his shoes. He's wearing Crocs.
"OK, so if you had better shoes, would that be OK?"

"Well... not really. I don't need to ride the bike..."
I drag his main hesitation out of him.
"I might fall," he says.
"Well, what will happen if you fall?" I ask.
"I dunno, I get hurt a little," he says.
"And then what?" I ask.
"Um, maybe I bleed..." he says, almost as a question.
"Then what?" I ask, prodding him to look further.
"I dunno..." he shrugs.
"Do you get back on the bike?" I ask.
"I dunno... I guess," he says, confused.

"So, the worst that can happen is that you fall, you get hurt, but then you get back on the bike. Right? Has that happened before?" I ask.

"Well, yeah, and it was really um, kinda scary," he confesses.

"OK," I tell him. "Well, that sounds really normal. Lots of people who fall and get hurt are afraid. I think everybody is. But, you know how that chocolate cream cake in the window of the bakery looks soooo good, but it never really tastes as good as we think it will?"
"Um, yeah..." he says.
"Well, things are always exaggerated in our minds. The desserts always taste better, and the falls always seem more painful, but it's never as intense in reality as it is in our minds. Right?"
"Wow. I guess so," he says.

"So, if I gave you some elbow and knee pads that I have in my car, so it wouldn't hurt if you fall, and if you came back here in better shoes, would you take a test ride?"

He searches for a flaw in my argument, but can find none. I assure him that with elbow and knee pads, he will not get hurt, that I fall all the time and I'm OK. He agrees to come back later in the day with his father.

Meanwhile, his grandmother has stood and listened to this exchange in something akin to awe. She asks me how long I will be at the shop today. I tell her till 8pm.

I help Jake choose a helmet, one with colors he likes, and set it aside for him. He and his grandparents leave, and I all but forget about them until almost 7pm, when they return to the shop, this time with Dad, Grandad, and the younger sister Abby, who is about seven.

Jake is ready for the ride now. He readily dons the elbow pads and knee pads that I retrieve from my trunk. I show him how to put his pedal at 2 o'clock for maximum impetus. But despite all my coaxing and coaching, he begins to get discouraged, has almost half a dozen false starts and suddenly cries in frustration, "I can't!" I ask him for one more good effort, and this time, I hold him steady as he pedals a few strokes in the parking lot. He comes to a stop, his eyes wide.

"Wow. I almost did it," he says, amazed.
"Yes! You did! Do it again!" I tell him.

He starts again, and this time, I let go, allowing him to ride by himself. He does it. He comes to a stop triumphant in front of his father. "Dad!! I did it!!" he calls.

This kid has not been on a bike since he was five years old. His dad is really trying to contain himself, while I hold nothing back and literally jump up and down and give Jake a high-five. It is now that I tell him he should try the XS adult bike.

"You think I can?" he asks.

"Dude! You looked so good on the 24"-bike, I think it's really going to be a better fit..." I tell him. I glance at the father, who takes a deep breath and purses his lips. He really wants his son on the bigger bike, but knows he can't push him.

Jake gets on the XS Hardrock and rides it like a champ. "I'm doing it!! I'm doing it!!"

These are the moments that make my job sweet. My day can hardly get any better at this point. A boy who was afraid of bikes now can't wait to go ride the new one he will be getting.

The father looks at me and says, "So, Abby here has never ridden a bike. Can you teach her too?"

I prepare a 20-inch girls bike with coaster brakes for Abby. She is fearless, and although she has several false starts, she takes instruction well and is soon riding well, as long as she doesn't have to turn or brake... which will come in time.

Amusingly, Jake has been attempting to coach her with his new-found knowledge as one who has *ahem* been riding longer than her. His dad quiets him, telling him, "Let Laura tell her..."

After Abby has mastered starting and stopping, and Jake tells her what a fine job she's done, I turn to Jake and say, "Your sister has learned very well from your example." He smiles.

"She probably learns a lot from you, right?" I ask.
"Well, sure," he admits.
"Do you know what you can learn from her?" I ask him.
"What?" he asks.
"She had a number of false starts, and messed up a lot of times..." I say.
"Haha... yeah," he laughs.
"But she never got discouraged, did she?" I ask him.
His smile fades, as he realizes this.
"She knows it's OK to make mistakes. You could try to learn that from her," I tell him with an encouraging smile.
He casts his eyes down, then looks back at me and nods with a tight-lipped smile.

God bless him, I too am a first-born who has to get everything RIGHT the first time!! My younger brother was always messing up, but it never mattered for him. If only I had been able to learn from him early on, and see his flexibility to get it wrong as a strength...

Haha... somewhere along the way I developed this compulsive need to make it easier on subsequent generations, seeking out first-borns and letting them know it's OK NOT to get it right the first time.

Today, Jake was my customer of the day, for his spirit, courage, and intellectual fortitude.

Update - I ran into Jake's father at UC Cyclery one Sunday afternoon in 2011 when I happened to stop by the shop. He said Jake was riding his bike often, and Jake's sister commented that he was "really good, too."

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Flat-changing Clinic part 3 - What's in your Camelbak?

This is Part 3 of the 3-part series on Bicycle Maintenance: Tires and Flat-changing.

One of the most frequent questions I get from attendees at my clinics is: 

What should I carry when I ride?

Five things you should absolutely have when you ride. 

  1. Mobile phone
  2. Copy of your picture ID, emergency contact info, blood type, known allergies
  3. Spare tube, Tire levers
  4. Pump and/or CO2 inflater head and 2 cartridges
  5. Emergency cash
In addition to these things, I carry a few more items. Here's my road saddlebag.
Laura's saddlebag, clockwise from the top: KINeSYS sunscreen, Purell mini, tire levers, mechanic gloves, photo ID, emergency contact card, pocket knife, Elete electrolyte concentrate single, $20, spare tube, 2 CO2 cartridges, MicroFlate Nano CO2 inflater head, patch kit, Allen wrenches, small bottle of  Elete TablytesClif Chocolate Cherry turbo shots.
List of additional items you might carry, that I do carry on the road, in addition to the 5 basics:
  • hex wrenches
  • nutrition (gel, bar, etc.)
  • electrolyte tablets (e.g., Elete Tablytes)
  • tube patch kit
  • pocketknife - helpful to remove glass from a tire among other things
  • mechanic gloves - when it's a grimy job and you still have hours to go
  • sunscreen mini bottle - to re-apply as needed
  • Purell mini bottle 

Mountain bike rides are different, because you can me in remote areas without access to emergency assistance. I carry quite a bit in my CamelBak when I'm mountain biking. Here are the additional items you might carry, that I do carry on the trail. The only things I've never had to use are the space blanket, photo ID and medical info card.

Laura's CamelBak contents: medical bag (bandages, medical tape, alcohol, maxi pad - a great sterile dressing for a deep cut or a large scrape, anti-bacterial ointment, Benedryl, etc.), photo ID, emergency cash, spare tube, bag of many-sized nuts and bolts, chain break tool, space blanket, spare cleats and screws, electrical tape, duct tape, shock pump, SRAM quick link, energy towel (to cool off someone suffering from heat exhaustion), CO2 cartridges, tire levers, tube patches, CO2 MicroFlate Nano inflater head, hex wrenches, knife, nail clippers, Sharpie, chain lube, Elete electrolyte supplement, spare derailleur hanger, Sportlegs (prevents lactic acid buildup), sports nutrition, tweezers to remove cactus needles, 2 small combs to remove cactus bulbs, large bandage, personal medical and emergency contact info.

In addition to the 5 basic items, here are the things I carry in my CamelBak.
For the bike:
  • hex wrenches
  • tube patch kit
  • chain lube
  • SRAM quick link
  • bag of many-sized nuts and bolts 
  • chain break tool 
  • shock pump 
  • spare derailleur hanger
For the body
  • sports nutrition (gel, bar, etc.)
  • electrolyte tablets (e.g., Elete Tablytes)
  • Sportlegs
  • energy towel (to cool off someone suffering from heat exhaustion)
For random emergencies
  • folding knife
  • Sharpie
  • spare cleats and screws
  • electrical tape, duct tape 
  • medical bag - bandages, large bandage, medical tape, alcohol, mechanic gloves, maxi pad - a great starile dressing for a deep cut or a large scrape, anti-bacterial ointment, Benedryl, sunscreen, nail clippers, etc. 
  • tweezers to remove cactus needles, 2 small combs to remove cactus bulbs (we are in the desert)
  • emergency cash
  • photo ID, medical information card with emergency contact info, blood type, known allergies
  • space blanket

While you don't necessarily need to carry items for any emergency, if you know how to use these things, they really come in handy when you need them. 

Have a great ride!

Please feel free to leave comments about thing you find useful, things you carry on the trail, or helpful suggestions for riders.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Bicycle Maintenance: Tires and Flat-changing Part 2 - AQ

This is Part 2 of the 3-part series on Bicycle Maintenance: Tires and Flat-changing.

In Part 1, I talked about what to expect in my flat-changing clinics, held monthly and hosted by B+L Bike and Sport. Here are some of the questions that come up in my flat-changing clinics. Please feel free to add your own questions in the comments. :)


Do I need to take the whole tire off?

No. You only need to take one side of the tire off so that you can remove and replace the tube.

What are the advantages to removing the whole tire?
Facilitates finding the thing that made you flat.
Removing the tire entirely will make it easier to find the glass, thorn, piece of wire, etc. Sometimes the object will remain in the rubber of the tire, slightly poking through the inside, just waiting to flat your new tube. With the tire removed, you can practically turn it inside-out.

Is there any disadvantage to removing the whole tire?
Remounting it in the wrong direction. 
Tires are often designed to roll best in one direction. Unless you know the direction of rotation, which is sometimes stamped into the sidewall of the tire, you need to either 
a) pay close attention to decals and logos when you removed the tire, i.e., logos match up to the cassette /skewer nut side or the skewer lever side, or
b) know how to read the directional tread of a tire.

"<= ROTATION" is stamped into the sidewall of many tires.


What do all those numbers on the tube box mean?

Example: 700 x 18-28, 48mm  (road tube)
  • 700 = roughly 700mm rim diameter
  • 18-28   Number of mm wide the tube will comfortably inflate. If the tire is narrower than 18mm, there will be too much flabby tube inside it. If the tire is wider than 28mm, the tube will be stretched too thin.
  • 48mm  length of the presta valve on a road tube. Deeper rims require longer valve stems. A short valve stem inside the rim may not allow you to attach the pump to inflate it.
Example: 26 x 1.9-2.125  (mountain bike tube)
  • 26 = 26" diameter rim
  • 1.9 - 2.125  Number of inches wide that the tube will comfortable inflate.
    How do I know I have the right size tube?
    Easiest way: take your tire to the bike shop and tell them you need a spare tube. When you remove the tube from the box and put it in a plastic bag, tear off the end of the box with all the numbers and put it inside the bag with the spare tube.

    Are bike measurements in inches or metric?
    Road bikes are most commonly measured in metric, mountain bikes in inches.

    What is the "bead" of the tire?
    The bead is the edge that hooks into the rim and holds the tire onto the rim. Tire beads are either wire or kevlar.

    What is the difference between wire or kevlar bead tires?

    Wire bead
    • often less expensive 
    • harder to mount onto rims 
    • better for 230+ lbs riders (because the bead stays in place and won't blow off the rim) 
    • adds 50-75g in rotational weight, which is fine for flat terrain, but more work in hilly terrain.
    Kevlar bead 
    • often more expensive than wire bead 
    • easy to mount into rims
    • fold-able (you can carry one in your back pocket if you need to)
    • reduced rotational weight
    How much air do my tires need?
    Every tire is stamped with a recommended inflation. Road bike tires are high pressure, low volume, and are generally inflated between 95-125 psi. 
    Road bike tire recommended inflation: 115 PSI / 125 PSI

    Mountain bike tires are low pressure, high volume, and are generally inflated between 30-50 psi.

    Mountain bike tire recommended inflation: 36-65 PSI 

    Why are some road tires perfectly slick and others have ridges (tread)?
    Perfectly slick road tires are most often used by racers, having the least friction and drag. Tires with more tread provide better grip and are better for directing water or mud away from the center of the tire. Ask at your local bike shop which tire is best for your riding style and goals.
      Is the rim and the wheel the same thing?
      No. The rim is only the hoop part with the holes in it. The wheel is made up of the rim, spokes, hub, etc.

      What is presta and schrader?
      Tube valve stems are either presta or schrader (looks like the car tire).

      presta valve in a mountain bike wheel
      Unscrew the top (little gold piece) to inflate. Be sure to tighten it back down.

      How often do I need to pump up my tires?
      Check tires before every ride. 

      Properly inflated road tires should feel completely solid. If you can make any depression with your fingers in the sidewall at all, you need air. Use a good floor pump and knew for certain how much pressure is in your tires. 

      If road tires are to be harder than an apple, mountain tires should be a bit softer than an orange. You should be able to depress the sidewall slightly. 

      If you have additional questions or are curious about tubes or tires, please see Sheldon Brown's website. Although Sheldon is no longer with us, his site is maintained by volunteers and remains a great resource for cyclists.

      Next week I'll have Part 3: What's in your saddlebag? Items you should have with you when you ride.

      Wednesday, May 09, 2012

      Bicycle Maintenance: Tires and Flat-changing (part 1)

      This is Part 1 of the 3-part series on Bicycle Maintenance: Tires and Flat-changing.

      When I first started cycling, my mechanic in New Jersey encouraged me to attend a flat-changing and bike maintenance clinic put on by the parks department. I remember following all the steps the instructor told me, but still being so confused, and feeling like I only got through the flat-changing part because someone more knowledgeable than me was there to help.

      Since that clinic in Feb 2003, I've tried to learn as much as I could about bikes and bike maintenance. Being something of a compulsive teacher, I naturally have to pass on what I've learned, so I started teaching flat-changing clinics with women as the target audience.

      Now I teach a flat-changing clinic at B+L Bike and Sports once a month. This past Sunday afternoon, I taught at the Solana Beach store where we had nine women attend. It was a great afternoon!

      Jenny and Robbin watch as Monica pulls the tube out of the tire in a simulated flat.

      It's important that everyone actually work on a bike and not just spectate. Doing it yourself boosts your confidence, and reinforces the notion that you can, in fact, do this yourself. We always work on rear wheels, with at least ten minutes spent removing and replacing the rear wheel, until everyone is comfortable doing so. As with most things, there are tricks to making removing/replacing a rear wheel easy. 

       Monica continues working on her tire as Bev (background) looks up from her work.

      Depending on space, there will be 4-6 bikes to work on. Attendees will work singly, in pairs, or even in groups of three to get the job done. Taking turns, everyone gets a chance to practice removing and replacing the rear wheel, removing the tire, getting the tire back onto the rim, and inflating the tube with CO2.

      Heather and Megan (left) and Patti and Jennifer (right) work in pairs  to install the tube.

      Everyone gets a chance to practice using CO2, thanks tosupport by Genuine Innovations. I remember being somewhat skeptical myself (read: afraid of it) at first. But once I realized how easy it is to use, and how I could eliminate ten minutes or more of exhausting frame pump arm work on the side of the road by using a CO2 cartridge that costs as little as a vanilla latte, I was sold.

      Jan and Bev line up the CO2 to inflate the tire. Special shout-out to Genuine Innovations for providing MicroFlate Nano heads and CO2 cartridges for the women to practice with.

      In part 2 of the blog Bicycle Maintenance: Tires and Flat-changing, I'll answer 
      frequently asked questions, including:
      • What do all those numbers on the tube box mean? 
      • How do I know I have the right size tube?
      • Do I need to take the whole tire off?
      • Why are some tires perfectly slick and others have ridges (tread)?
      • Is the rim and the wheel the same thing?
      Please feel free to post your questions below! If I can't answer it, I'll find the answer from someone more knowledgeable than me.

      Patti checks to make sure the MicroFlate head in lined up square to the rim for best air flow.

      Thank yous are in order to all the attendees of my most recent clinic in Solana Beach: Monica and her friends Robbin and Jenny, Bev, Jan, Heather, Megan, Patti, and Jennifer. Thanks to the guys at B+L Bike and Sports Solana Beach: Tom, Scott, Gisan, and especially Kevin who stayed late for us. Thanks to Mark of B+L Bike and Sports who invited me into his shop and is hosting these events. And big thanks to Genuine Innovations, who supplies the MicroFlate Nano heads and the CO2 cartridges we use in class. These San Diego Flat-changing clinics exist because of your efforts.

      Next clinic:
      Sunday, 5/20/12, 3:45 PM

      B+L Bike and Sports in San Diego (Rosecrans).
      RSVP on


      Friday, March 02, 2012

      Women's Mountain Bike Skills Clinic with Catharine Pendrel

      It was another amazing day in Southern California, with the sun shining and a cool breeze blowing. What a great day to be on a bike!

      Team LUNA Chix San Diego and Team LUNA Chix LA Cycle teamed up together for the first time to put together a pre-season skills clinic at the Southridge Race Series in Fontana CA. We were fortunate enough to have reigning UCI XC World Champion Catharine Pendrel from the LUNA Pro team in town. By way of reference, here's Catharine with her winning move at the World Championship Race in Champery, Switzerland.

      Catharine Pendrel at the UCI World Championships

      Girls came from all over SoCal, bringing their enthusiasm and eagerness to learn. Since Dorothy Wong from Team LUNA Chix LA Cycle was on-hand to take pictures, I'll let the pictures tell the story of the day.

      Girls gathered outside the LUNA tent.

      Track-standing drills in the grass.

      Catharine talks about the next drill - lofting your front wheel.

      Alexandria practices lofting her front wheel.

      Julie, looking pretty solid on this drill.

      We all headed up the hill to start the on-course portion of the clinic. 
      For a quick look at the day, here's a short video:

      Super D Race
      On the hill waiting, for the race start

      Looking out over Fontana below.

      Getting outside to play!

      Catharine with junior racers Maddie and Kenzie.

      Award  time!!

      Catharine and Leti
      Leti won the award for Most Improved Rider! (tassels for the bike!)

      Angela and Catharine
      Angela won the award for Most Aggressive Rider (a horn for her handlebars!). (Angela did the brutal course that ran down the Cal State Downhill course on a hardtail!!)

      While we waited for results to be posted, we enjoyed post-clinic/race grilled chicken, sweet potatoes, and garden salad thanks to Steve Drexler (my husband and major race sponsor) and my mom Patricia, who also provided childcare. You two are my heroes.

      Liz Carrington won second place in the pro women's class, and Nancy Harris took 4th! Congrats ladies!!

      Our clinic attendees all did well and enjoyed the race! From left: Willi Zuckerman, Laura Drexler, Mandy Oliekan, Alex Fabbro, and Julie Bertramd 

      The gang!

      Liz selects her raffle prize - girly-T courtesy of Ahnu Footwear.

      We had amazing support from CamelBak, Genuine Innovations, and Ahnu Footwear, all sponsors of the LUNA women's pro team.. When I pitched the idea to Camelbak of a women's skills clinic with Catharine Pendrel, they were excited for us and offered to supply not only SWAG (everyone got a Camelbak Podium waterbottle), but also items for a raffle in the form of six CamelBak hydration packs! Wow! 

      SWAG for everyone!

      Jane was very excited about the raffle items from Camelbak!

      No less spectacular was the show of support from Genuine Innovations and Ahnu footwear, with Genuine Innovations supplying every attendee with a pink Microflate CO2 head and cartridge, and enough cartridges for everyone to practice using CO2, and Ahnu providing six girly-Ts and socks for the raffle. Everyone came away with great memories, new skills, something to work on and look forward to, and great tokens of the day.

       After I worked with Kenzie on using the CO2, I had her teach her sister. 

      Kenzie teaches Maddie how to use CO2.

      Steve holds Jane after a long day of sun and bike fun.
      You'd think she was in the group hiking their bikes up the hill...

      Thanks to all the people who made this clinic happen. We raised $625 for the Breast Cancer Fund and had a great time!
      Thank you:
      Catharine Pendrel of the LUNA Women's Pro Team
      Dorothy Wong from Team LUNA Chix LA Cycle
      Cingy O'Grady from Team LUNA Chix San Diego Cycle
      Nancy Harris
      Sophia and LaVonne at LUNABar 
      Kevin at CamelBak
      Elizabeth at Ahnu Footwear
      Donnie Jackson at
      Steve Drexler and Trisha Gilliland. 

      Great job everyone!