26 December 2013

Le Fin

It's the end of the year and the end of 365 days on a bike (well, almost). Going through my photos of the past year brought back so many amazing memories: bike dates, bike parties, family rides, work rides, rides with family members, rides to events. An entire year of memories on a bike.

Winter melts into spring...

Spring warms into summer...

Summer cools into fall...

And fall returns to winter...

And with that, comes the end of Life's a Bear. Thanks for joining me for the past six years. I've met some lovely women and men through this blog. I will miss following them regularly, but I hope to keep in touch through other social media channels. Thanks for reading!

20 December 2013

The Final Benefit of Biking: Motivation

There are far more than 12 benefits of biking. And many of them are so closely related that it's hard to separate them (health and environment, economics and community, biking mom means biking family). The 12 that I posted are specific to me, but I have a feeling that many people experience these benefits as well.

A year ago, I decided that I was going to try to ride my bike (nearly) everyday. I created a hashtag for it (#everydayonabike) and wrote about it here. By doing so, I put the intention out in the world and felt accountable. (To whom? I'm not sure. Maybe just to myself.) It was just the kind of motivation I needed to take this type of a challenge on.

And let me be the first to tell you: It was sometimes (often) a challenge. Riding my bike means that I have to get up earlier and be more prepared. It means that I spend more time commuting than I would otherwise. It means that sometimes I would show up to a meeting sweating profusely or wiping snot from my nose thanks to a cold ride. Some days I just don't feel like riding. But more often than not, I rode anyway - even if it meant having a prolonged pep talk with myself.

Here's the thing: I never, ever regretted biking once I was on the bike. I never wished I had driven instead. I have to remember that sometimes - getting started is often the hardest part.

There were also days when I couldn't wait to get on the bike. When riding was such a joy that I couldn't stop myself from smiling.

One year is a long time to keep up with something. Although I have started giving myself a little more slack about not riding, I've kept at this whole everyday on a bike adventure. Mostly I'm proud of myself for not losing motivation.

The message here is, if I can do it, anyone can do it. I'm not a hard-core cyclist. I don't have all of the latest gear and gadgets. I'm not fast. That's your motivation: Don't let schedules or kids (take them along for the ride!) or fear get in your way of biking more. Sometimes the hardest part is starting.

Thanks for joining me in this adventure!

19 December 2013

The 12 Benefits of Biking: Interactions

I rarely smile at other drivers while in my car. Sure, if I know someone, I wave and smile. Otherwise, I'm ambivalent or cursing under my breath, depending on other drivers.

When I'm on my bike, I often get smiles and/or waves from other people sharing the road - other parents riding, people walking and sometimes people driving. Today, when I rode up to the chain grocery store to buy gift cards for the kids' teachers, a woman smiled and said hello to me. Had I driven and walked into the store, I doubt that we would have shared a look, much less a smile. I've had conversations about my bike, about my bike trailer, about my coat, about riding, about all sorts of random things with people because I ride my bike. And because I work from home and don't interact with many people throughout the day, I value being able to share a little with people. And if it's because I ride my bike, all the better.

I can't write about interactions without mentioning my social media interactions that have occurred because of #everydayonabike. I now follow many people who are just like me - not serious bikers, but like to commute. It's been great to "meet" people through Instagram and the blog who share a passion for biking.

The 12 Benefits of Biking: Apparel

Over the past year, my wardrobe has shifted. Not necessarily on purpose or quickly. It's been a slow transition. Certain clothes and shoes work better on the bike and since I don't have a chain guard, I have to be mindful about what I wear. The tenth benefit of riding a bike is the challenge of finding apparel that will work with the bike (and be somewhat stylish at the same time).

Pants // The biggest change has been my conversion to skinny jeans. They're great because they're cute, comfortable and never, ever get stuck in between links. My current favorite: Old Navy Rockstar jeans. They're inexpensive, fit pretty true to size and come in all sorts of colors. My only complaint is that they are a bit on the short side. But, if I wear boots, it's not an issue. And in the spring/summer, the ankle-length is perfect.

Shoes // I know some women who bike in heels. And more power to them. I'm no good at it. I'm also pretty bad at riding with shoes with slippery soles. Flats aren't my best friend, but when I ride to meetings, I usually have to suck it up. In August, I bought a pair of Frye Veronica boots specifically for winter riding. They are super durable and keep my feet warm if I'm wearing wool socks. I'm still looking for the perfect summer riding sandal. I'm also in the market for some basic black boots.

Seen here, ski parka, Po Campo bag and Frye Veronica boots. (There are some skinny jeans hiding there too). Not on a bike, but clearly this wardrobe has impacted my non-riding days too.
Outerwear // Riding in cool weather can be a challenge because I inevitably heat up while riding. Layers are always good. But so are scarves. I've found that scarves are just about as important while riding in the cold as are mittens. I'm a big fan of my Goodwill-purchased jean jacket in the spring and summer. If it's only mildly cold, I'll wear an old wool coat that I've had for years (great because it covers my butt - an important consideration when choosing outerwear, I've learned). If it's really cold (any temp under 25 or so), I wear my big ski parka. It usually ends up being too hot. I always have my Smartwool gloves handy and they usually do the trick. Unless it's really cold. Then I'll wear some great homemade felted mittens.

If I remember correctly, I rode in 15 degree weather on this day.
I pulled out the parka, the big mittens and a scarf for that ride!

Accessories // This year I finally invested in a bike rack. At some point, I'd love to get some panniers or a basket for it. But for now, I use it mostly for my Po Campo Trunk Bag. This is one of the coolest bike bags around. It's designed to strap onto a bike rack and has reflexive strips that face traffic. Brilliant. It's also pretty great for lugging gloves and hats and snacks for kids! I'm still wearing the helmet I bought in college. Not very pretty, but it does the trick. I asked for a new helmet for Christmas. Fingers crossed!

17 December 2013

The 12 Benefits of Biking: Bike Dates

Remember that Biking Mom Means Biking Kids? Big benefit. Huge. This post will focus on the ninth benefit of biking: Biking Wife Means Biking Husband. Well, sometimes. But always for bike dates.

Nate and I made a resolution to go on at least one date per month. And for the first eight or nine months of the year, we rode our bikes to all of our dates. We've slacked on dates in the final three months of the year, but I'd say our bike dates were pretty successful. We enjoyed dates at some of our favorite restaurants, like Potager and Parallel Seventeen and Tables and Solera. And we checked out new places, like Fruition. We rode nearly eight miles to enjoy a birthday dinner for a friend (our longest bike date). And we rode to fundraisers for our kids schools. It turns out that there are A LOT of really fantastic local restaurants within a 5-mile radius of our house.

Image source.

I rode to bike dates with girlfriends (mostly to places like Neighbors, the Elm, and once to the Populist) and we embarked on several family bike dates. Tomorrow night, a few girlfriends and I are going to take advantage of the unseasonably warm weather to bike to a new place. Didn't I just write about community? I'm glad to have some friends who are willing to bike along with me!

Bike dates: I highly recommend them.

16 December 2013

The 12 Benefits of Biking: Community

There is a wonderful - or perhaps many wonderful - biking community(ies) in Denver. Road bikers, mountain bikers, commuters, cruisers. You name it, Denver has it. BikeDenver is a great local organization that encourages the bike communities that exist here. It also advocates for better bike infrastructure, educates people about safe riding and sharing the road.

I haven't joined any of these communities. Not because they aren't welcoming. But because I rarely have enough time to go on group rides. That's something I'd like to change in 2014. A new bike shop opened in my neighborhood last week, so I'll look to it for organizing local rides or joining in the Park Hill Cruisers at some point.

I have found a bit of a community via social media through #everydayonabike. There are regular posters from Portland, Omaha, Ames, Tennessee, Australia and other locations all over the world(ish). And I'm  now following many people who bike regularly on Instagram. It's so motivating to see how much people ride - without any fanfare. I will miss the #everydayonabike posts when 2013 is over. I hope people continue to use the tag.

Thank you to everyone who has joined me in this adventure!

15 December 2013

The 12 Benefits of Biking: Biking Mom Means Biking Kids

I'm going to combine benefits #6 and #7 because they are so closely related.

I may be forever known as the Biking Mom now. The kids and I bike just about anywhere we go (within reason, of course), particularly in the summer when we have relaxed schedules and nice weather. As a result, Benny has made some pretty significant round-trip treks. I think his longest ride to date was nearly 8 miles this summer - to go swimming no less.

Biking has become so predominant in our routine that a ride in the car is now a "treat." The kids have been trained to go to the back door when we're preparing to leave because that's where we retrieve the bikes. They typically don't complain about it any more either.

I've gotten better at being a biking mom. I know how to bundle Benny and Lila up appropriately and I have a 30-degree rule. If it's below 30, we don't ride. That means that we can't ride to school in the winter time, but we can ride home (thanks to the Burley trailer that has enough room for Benny's scooter). When it's hot outside, I'm smarter about bringing water and snacks and taking enough breaks. It's been a learning process, but we've nearly mastered it.

13 December 2013

The 12 Benefits of Biking: Marketing

I couldn't really come up with a good name for this benefit because it was such an unexpected benefit. Business promotion didn't seem right. Marketing is just about the best I could do.

Over the course of the year, I rode to many of the business meetings I scheduled. I'm lucky that almost all of my clients are located withing 6 or so miles of my home office. The unintended benefit of pedaling to those meetings was an automatic conversation starter. Often I would walk into a meeting with my helmet and people would exclaim, "You rode your bike!? That's so great." I was never looking for accolades, but a 5 minute conversation about biking in Denver would ensue. With new clients, this was a great way to break the ice. And, I believe, in a small way, it sets me apart from other consultants. I probably didn't gain any extra work by riding my bike, but people tend to remember things like that.

So, when it comes to marketing Struckman Consulting, now I just rely on the conversational benefits of riding my bike. At some point, I'll update my business website to include information about biking and its relationship to the way I work and how I see the world.

12 December 2013

The 12 Benefits of Biking: Geographic

I've never been great at reading maps. I can do it, but sometimes it takes me awhile to figure things out. Google maps on my iPhone is just about the best invention in the world.

But typically, I only need that app for driving directions now. The city of Denver has done a pretty outstanding job of creating a vast network of bike lanes and routes that allow me to crisscross the city with relative ease. I know where all of the major bike lanes are now and can get most places without a map. I know where to ride and what to avoid. But, the Google maps ability to show bike routes in green is pretty spectacular too - for the times when I'm riding somewhere that's new to me.

This map only show the dedicated paved bike paths in Denver. They link up with a
vast network of bike lanes and routes that allow for biking all over the city.

What's more: It's good for kids to walk/ride to school and around the neighborhood too. It gives them an opportunity to figure out where they're going - something that's not possible when they're riding in the back seat of a car. Studies also show that kids learn better after some physical activity. These seemingly simple mind stretches are another great benefit of taking the bike!

Annndddd, what's more: I've ventured into neighborhoods within my 3-5 mile proximity that I'd never, ever considered biking to before. I love experiencing a new location by bike. Everything is highlighted.

11 December 2013

The 12 Benefits of Biking: Environmental

Here we are, numero tres of the 12 Benefits of Biking. It's the last "obvious" benefit that I'll cover. Health, check - definite benefits, economics - check - I saved at least $540 this year by choosing the bike over the car. While most of these benefits also benefit society in some way, I benefited from them directly as well.

The environment is a little different. Yes, I certainly benefit from cleaner air and fewer cars on the road, but I don't see it everyday.

As the folks from Bike to Work Day say, bikes use no fuel, they require much less energy to build and they don't use toxic batteries or motor oil. "Each car is a small pollution factory." Well, ain't that the truth. And I drive an SUV (please don't judge - there's a long story behind that choice). By not driving it, I'm helping the environment even more.

To think about the environment is to be a bit forward thinking. I'm not talking about progressive or even liberal. It's just considering what you do today could impact people in 5, 10, 20 years and beyond. So our choices matter, even if they don't impact us directly or in the moment. Although riding my bike is a small piece of making less of an impact, it's an important one.

The 12 Benefits of Biking: Economics

In the movement to get more people on bikes, experts often note the amount of money a person can save by choosing a bike over a car. And while there are probably many economic benefits that aren't calculated (good health, for example), riding a bike most certainly equals saving money in many circumstances.

In my case, I probably rode between 1,200 and 2,400 miles over the course of the year. Not a record breaking number in any way, but nothing to sneeze at either. But let's assume that I only rode 1,200 (about 100 per month) and let's assume that I would spend about 45 cents per gallon on gas. It stands to reason that I saved $540 in gas money alone. And that doesn't include parking fees, oil changes and other driving-related expenses that I would have otherwise incurred.

Although I've always been a fan of walkable communities and tend to stick pretty close to home when it comes to grocery shopping, dining out, etc. (I call it the 3-5 mile bubble), riding my bike has made me more inclined to shop at small, local businesses - because that's what's in my bubble. This year, instead of driving to the chain grocery store for last-minute dinner ingredients, I was more likely to ride my bike to the local mom and pop grocery store in my neighborhood. It's a bit more expensive than a larger grocery store, but I know that the money I spend there will stay in the neighborhood. Nate and I also went on numerous bike dates around the area (pretty much in a 3-5 mile radius). All of these restaurants are locally owned. So while I didn't actually save money, I spent money knowing that it would benefit my community. Lucky for me, bike lanes typically run along smaller, less car-traveled roads. And that's where small businesses tend to be located. I see a nice marriage here.

At a more macro level, I joined the growing number of people riding their bikes to and from work. With our growing numbers, cities are adding infrastructure to support vibrant bike scenes. That means that less cars are on the roads. It is much cheaper to add biking infrastructure than it is to add lanes of streets and highways to accommodate more cars on the road. That kind of economics helps the greater good, but eventually maybe it will become a benefit to me by way of lower taxes.

There were so many amazing infographics about the benefits of biking from all around the country and world. It is encouraging to see so many cities embrace biking culture - including Atlanta!

09 December 2013

The 12 Benefits of Biking: Health

I'm not riding this week. The icy roads and below 20 degree temps aren't too welcoming. So I've had some time to reflect on this whole bike-for-a-year experiment. Over the past 365 days, I've noted some expected and unexpected benefits of biking. As the year of #everydayonabike comes to an end, I'd like to share some of them with you.

I'll start with one of the most obvious benefits: Health. Spending an hour and a half on the bike in a day sure is a lot better for me than driving for 30 minutes. The health benefits of exercise were pretty great. My legs became muscular in places where I haven't had muscle in a long time. But there are a few other health benefits that aren't included in the calorie burning arena - one of which being mental health. Fresh air and pumping blood do wonders to clear my cluttered mind. That's not to mention the extra vitamin D that I was exposed to while riding.

I recently read this article and found myself nodding at all of the health benefits listed.

03 December 2013

All You Need Is Love

I love holiday card time. I love receiving real mail with good tidings from friends near and far. I love seeing family photos that track the yearly march onward and reading about accomplishments and other goings on. Holiday cards weren't really my thing until I had kids. But now they are. I guess that's what maturity and motherhood will do.

Although it's hard to believe that the year is nearly complete, here we are. What a lovely year it was. Here are some highlights:

Lila turned three in September. She is most certainly no longer a baby. She rid herself diapers (during the day anyway) and transitioned to a big girl bed. She is a little person through and through and has the most wonderful of personalities - feisty and loving and stubborn and happy. She also moved into the intermediate room at daycare - where almost all of the kids are older than her. But she loves it all the same. This year, at Thanksgiving, she said she was thankful for flip flops. It's appropriate because she loves flip flops more than just about anything. Except maybe her brother. She really loves him.

Speaking of Benny (how's that for a transition?), he's doing pretty swell too. Although he would never admit it when his friends are around, he loves his sister. They enjoy playing with each other. While fights happen, they are few and far between. He's in first grade (first grade?!?) at our local neighborhood school. He likes his teacher and seems to make more friends every passing week, which makes sense because he's a friendly and fun-loving kind of guy. This semester he's taking after school art and Spanish classes in addition to swim classes. In January, he'll start ski school. Oh, and he's reading pretty well, which makes his bibliophile mama pretty happy.

Nate and I continue to be in awe of these two little creatures - although there are the rare exceptions of evenings when we need a stiff drink after the monsters go to bed. They are ours and they are amazing.

Nate celebrated one year at his new job this summer. It's challenging and busy, but he (mostly) likes it. He occasionally plays in a local band and is serving as the president of the board at Lila's preschool. Never a dull moment.

I've been keeping busy too. Struckman Consulting is thriving now. I'll (hopefully) provide an update for that in a future post. I won't be teaching at the University of Denver this year, which is disappointing, but it's just as well. I've signed three new clients in the past three months. I'd be hard-pressed to find time to plan and teach a class any time in the near future. I've been riding my bike (nearly) everyday for the past year. It's been a great experiment/adventure and I don't see myself changing any new habits.

It's strange to reflect on an entire year in a few short paragraphs, but it's a good reminder that time does indeed march on. I'm very excited to see what 2014 has in store!