Posts Tagged ‘cycling’

Jennifer Lewis contributed this thoughtful article to the Nevada Bicycle Coalition Blog:

The Importance of Measuring Heart Rate Variability for Cyclists

In the sports medicine and biofeedback fields alike, the buzzword is Heart Rate Variability (HRV): the change in the time intervals between Heart Brain Comm Paths
adjacent heartbeats, measured in milliseconds. A higher HRV variability indicates a low-stress state, while a low HRV suggests a greater need for rest, recovery and better sleep. As academics, Rollin McCraty, Ph.D. and Fred Shaffer, Ph.D. note, “An optimal level of HRV within an organism reflects healthy function and an inherent self-regulatory capacity, adaptability, or resilience.” A high HRV indicates, as it were, that the body is able to adapt to different stressors and challenges, though this measurement should not be too high – otherwise, you could be experiencing arrhythmia (a potentially dangerous condition which occurs when the electrical impulses that control heartbeats are not working properly). A cyclist’s HRV should be high enough to indicate that their central nervous system is communicating efficiently with the heart, and that the heart is able to make the tiny adjustments it needs. A high HRV shows that an athlete’s sympathetic (stress response) and parasympathetic (relax and recover response) are in sync.
As a cyclist, it is important to measure your HRV because the latter gives you vital information regarding the physical and mental stress you may be going through. For instance, those who are addicted to physical activity or who overtrain, can take a long time to discover the negative effects of pushing body and mind beyond its limits. Symptoms of overtraining may include reduced performance on your bike, soreness and stiffness, muscle wasting, fatigue and even adrenal exhaustion. However, by measuring your HRV, you can discover that you have been overtraining long before reaching these limits. A decreased HRV will show that it is much harder to increase your heart rate despite making greater efforts, and that your heart rate takes longer to recover post workout. In essence, a lowered HRV shows that your body is not adapting to stress as efficiently because it is overworked.


Current apps such as the Sweetbeat HRV app enable you to glean the connection between high stress and low HRV. Remember when using these apps that the aim is not always to aim for a very high HRV (since improving as a cyclist does involve putting your body through stress); rather, the aim is to swing between training hard and recovery, so that your body is not in a constant low-HRV state. The apps will help you clearly identify when you are under unhealthy stress levels, letting you know that you need to make necessary changes to your workout and lifestyle.


There are many steps you can take to increase your HRV in a healthy manner, for optimal performance as a cyclist. Top tips include:
• Balance your cycling and gym workouts with holistic exercises: Studies have shown that holistic exercise programmes incorporating exercise like yoga and Tai-Chi, used for thousands of years to enhance mental and spiritual (in addition to physical) health, have the uniquely powerful ability to lower levels of stress hormones. Yoga is additionally an ideal activity for those with a tendency to overtrain, since it employs techniques like controlled breathing and mindful meditation to curb anxious thought patterns and keep the mind in the present moment.
• Ensure you get enough sleep: Rest and sleep are vital if muscles which have been pushed to limits during workouts, are to recover. A good sign that you need a longer recovery period and better sleep is constant soreness (i.e. of the type which lasts beyond 72 hours after your workout). Another sign you have been pushing yourself too hard is decreased motivation or, on the contrary, having obsessive thoughts about cycling or your workout regime.

Heart Brain Comm Paths EKG
• Drink green tea: Studies have shown that green tea can increase the HRV, owing in part to L-theanine, one of its active compounds, which is capable of reducing sympathetic nervous activity.
• Find ways to curtail stress from your life: Chronic stress will do more than hamper your performance in cycling; it has also been linked to serious diseases like heart disease and Type II diabetes. Try to make the active lifestyle changes which are reasonable at this point in your life. These may include a change of job or profession, or eliminating relationships which cause more stress than good.
• Avoid polluted areas: Studies have shown that those who cycle in high pollution environments have a lower HRV. Try as much as possible to cycle in natural areas, since green environments have also been proven to lower cortisol levels and promote greater concentration, well-being and sports and academic performance.

From Terry:
The attached paper, published in Global Advances in Health and Medicine, suggests that an athlete can use his mind as well as his body to improve his HRV and athletic performance.
“Emotional self-regulation strategies may contribute to improved client health and performance, alone, or in combination with HRV biofeedback training. Numerous studies have provided evidence that coherence training consisting of intentional activation of positive emotions paired with HRV coherence feedback may facilitate significant improvements in wellness and wellbeing indicators in a variety of populations.” Here is a link to that paper: https://www.heartmathbenelux.com/doc/HRV%20new%20perspectives%20on%20physiological%20mechanisms%20assessment%20of%20self%20regulatory%20capacity%20and%20risk.pdf

Note: In the interest of full disclosure, Dr. Rollin McCraty quoted above, is employed by the Institute of HeartMath, which sells one of these heart rate variability feedback devices. HRV devices in addition to Sweetbeats HRV, include emWavePro, or Inner Balance for iOS devices (HeartMath, Inc, Boulder Creek, California), Relaxing Rhythms (Wild Divine, Boulder City, Nevada), and the Stress Resilience Training System (Ease Interactive, San Diego, California).

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ImageBy now we’re all aware of the negative effects of smoking on our health. Smoking can lead to emphysema, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and many other health problems. Despite this, statistics show that 19.3% of adult Americans are smokers. Even more sobering statistics show that smoking is the lead cause of preventable death in the US, accounting for one in five of all annual deaths (Source: CDC.gov). When we’re so aware of the potential risks, why then, do so many of us still choose to smoke? The most common reason is nicotine addiction, and an inability to quit. Quitting smoking is incredibly difficult, and the majority of smokers will have tried and failed to quit several times. In order to effectively stop smoking it is not enough to simply want it. You must have a plan in place, and you must find an alternative to smoking to keep your cravings at bay. Though it may sound strange, exercise has proven to be one of the most effective ways to quit smoking. Outdoor cycling in Nevada is a fantastic way to exercise, providing you with outdoor scenery, the opportunity to meet fellow cyclers, and quality fresh air. Which is why cycling may just be the best exercise to help you quit.

Set Your Goals

recent study conducted in Taiwan found that people who exercise are 55% more likely to quit smoking and 43% less likely to relapse back into the habit. If you’ve been looking for a sign to quit, and a reason to get your old bike out, these statistics are surely it. Before you embark on your quitting journey however, you must set yourself some goals. If you have an achievable target to work towards you are much more likely to stick to a plan and not give up when the going gets tough. Of course the ultimate target is to stop smoking, but it would be unwise to go t-total straight away. Gradually weaning yourself off tobacco using nicotine patches is advisable, and you should consult your doctor about your action plan first.

Set ongoing goals such as: ‘In a month’s time I will be able to cycle twenty miles and will be down to one nicotine patch a day’. Tying your cycling goals into your goal to quit will provide added motivation to stick to both plans. As well as small ongoing goals you should work towards an ultimate target. Try to find a bike race happening this year somewhere close by and sign up for it. Then set your ultimate goal as either completing the race, or depending on your cycling proficiency, give yourself a target time.

Make a Cycle Plan

Having a concrete cycling schedule is a great tool in helping you to achieve your targets, draw one up and make several copies of it. Put one on your desk at work, on your fridge, in your bedroom; make sure that you are reminded of it every day. So how often should you cycle? Well, the Taiwan study concluded that in order to enjoy a higher chance of quitting, you must exercise at least thirty minutes per day. This is a great place to start. Daily cycling will provide you with a frequent distraction from your cravings, give you the chance to experience outdoor Nevada, and the fresh air will help to clear your mind. If you live close enough to your workplace, why not cycle to and from work? This will cut down the amount of time per day that you are ‘passive’, and if you usually smoke in your car, will get you out of that habit. As well as short daily cycles, you should also do at least two long-distance cycles per week. Aim to do one mid-week, and one slightly longer cycle on the weekend.

Cycling in Nevada

If you agree that it is important to be able to cycle in your home town Nevada, you may wish to join Nevada Bicycle Coalition’s advocacy to improve Nevada roads to make them safer for cyclists. To offer your support for the advocacy simply write an email or letter to the editor of the Reno Gazette Journal, and join cyclists all over Nevada who are lobbying for change. Read our advocacy for more information on how to do your bit. – Jennifer Knight

ImageTerry says – Long ago I smoked and I remember how much I liked it. Or, maybe, that was “couldn’t do without it”. Then it was no big deal. Doctors endorsed cigarette brands on TV. Now the evidence of how bad it is for your health is so strong that when I see someone smoking, I think “What’s wrong with that person?” If you are a cyclist AND a smoker, why?

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Bike Advocacy Corner

Members of MusclePower, the Nevada Bicycle Advisory Board and the Nevada Bicycle Coalition met and sorted through all of the potential pro-bicyclist legislation that could be requested this legislative session. A child helmet bill, the Idaho stop sign law, and the 3 foot passing rule were among those considered. What made the cut was a Vulnerable Roadway Users bill similar to the one in Oregon. State Assembly Member Teresa Benitas-Thompson agreed to co-sponsor it with David Bobzien.

Assembly Rep Benitez-Thompson & Lilly

We haven’t seen the bill draft yet but it should look a lot like the Oregon law. The Oregon Vulnerable Roadway Users Law defines a new class of “vulnerable” road user and proscribes new, tougher penalties for careless driving leading to serious injury or death of one of these users.  In Oregon a “vulnerable user” means a pedestrian, a highway worker, a person riding an animal or a person operating any of the following on a public way, crosswalk or shoulder of the highway: a farm tractor or implement of husbandry; a skateboard; roller skates; in-line skates; a scooter; or a bicycle.

This law requires a court to sentence a person convicted of this offense to complete a traffic safety course, perform 100 to 200 hours of community service, pay a fine of up to $12,500, and suspension of driving privileges for one year. Payment of the fine and suspension of driving privileges may be waived by the court upon completion of the traffic safety course and community service.

To my way of thinking, the point of this is to give the judge a bigger hammer when the careless motorist says something like, “Bicyclists belong on the sidewalk” or “It was the bicyclist’s own fault for being in the road”. Of course the other point is to somehow balance the power and protection a motorist enjoys against the lack of power and protection of a vulnerable user by making the motorist more “vulnerable”.

You can help with the e-mail and letter campaign or come to Carson City to testify when the bill is being considered. If you want to roam the halls of the capital talking to legislators or to find other vulnerable users to testify, please let me know. We could use your help. I’ll keep you posted – Terry

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Five weeks and the snow is still piled up everywhere. If you live in Minnesota, this may sound like a wimpy complaint but for Reno, it’s a long time. And the bicycling in Reno is somewhere between dangerous and impossible, assuming of course that you don’t mind cycling in 6 layers of clothing.

Last year I gave a lunch time talk to a chapter of the American Public Works Association. One of the questions was, “Why don’t bicyclists stay in their bike lanes?” At the time I answered with the Nevada statutes which makes it illegal for a motorist to drive in the bike lane but does not restrict bicyclists to the bike lane. And then I followed with bicyclist having to avoid sand, broken glass and other debris in the bike lane to avoid a fall or flat time. I failed to mention snow.

Of course, the safest place to ride a road bike on the road is in a bike lane. In a 1998 study for the Transportation Research Board, William Moritz of the University of Michigan compared the safety of different bicycling facilities and found:

Facility Type Crashes per Million Miles of Exposure
Bike lanes


Signed bike routes

Major streets without bike facilities


Minor streets without bike facilities


Shared use paths




So when the snow piles melt and the street sweeper has swept, stay in those bike lanes and off of the sidewalk. Don’t become a statistic yourself. In the meantime, take care and good luck!

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Looking at all of this snow got me search the Web for ideas for winter bicycling. I found this on the NPR.org site to share with you, from a 2007 blog posting by Jill Horner. Look out for those moose holes. – Terry

Jill Homer of Juneau, Alaska, is training to ride 350 miles in the human-powered Iditarod. The race, which starts in February, follows the same route used by the famous dog sled teams.

People sometimes say, “Wow, riding a bike on snow — that’s great. But how does it work?” Snow-biking can be different from regular cycling, so I’ve compiled a list of 10 tips for riding a bike on snow.

1. Think surface area: If you’ve ever used snowshoes before, you know that all that mass at the bottom of your feet can mean the difference between coasting atop power or wading knee-deep in it. Snow bikes work they same way. They incorporate wide tires with a flat profile in order to distribute bulk (you) as evenly as possible, allowing for maximum floatation.

2. Fat is the new skinny. As long as there have been bicycles, there have been weight-weenie types trying to shave grams off wheels. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to see a spoke-free wheel sporting tires as thin as razors. But once you slice into snow, skinny tires might as well be razors. Snow-bikers know that fat means float, and have been developing bicycles to accommodate increasingly larger wheels for years. I predict that not too far in the future, someone will build a bicycle frame with room for motocross tires. Look for it.

3. There is no shame in walking. Cyclists hate to admit when they come to a hill or an obstacle they just can’t conquer. I have seen cyclists blow out their knees and face-plant over logs just to avoid suffering the indignity of getting off the bike and walking. Snow-bikers have no such pretensions. We know that bikes are not ready-made for snow, and vice versa. If snow is too soft, or too deep, or too wet, we simply step off and amble along until we can ride again. We learn to enjoy it, like walking a dog, but without the constant slobbering.

4. When in doubt, let air out. Often, snowy trails are what we would call “marginally ridable.” By letting air out of tires, you can increase the surface area and improve your floatation. Sometimes it means riding on nearly flat tires at a pace a snail wouldn’t envy, but, despite what I said in the previous paragraph, it’s still better than walking.

5. Learn your snow types. It’s been said that Eskimos have dozens of different words of snow. Snow bikers also understand the myriad varieties: powder, sugar, corn, hard-pack, sandy, slushy, and so on. Each type comes with its own challenges. But understanding the nature of the white stuff you are trying to ride atop, you can adjust your riding and wheels to meet the conditions.

6. Don’t be disappointed when you fail to set a land-speed record. Snow, like sand, puts up a lot of resistance, and snow bikers are not known for their speed. I have often heard accounts of cyclists who said felt like they were careening down a hill, only to look down and see they hadn’t even breached the 10 mph barrier. In snow races, 10 mph is considered fast. Eight mph is average. Six mph is respectable, and four mph isn’t uncommon. When asked to describe the nature of the 2006 Iditarod Invitational, which was plagued by cold temperatures and fresh snow, third-place finisher Jeff Oatley said, “It was about as intense as a 2.5 mph race can be.”

7. All brakes are not created equal. When contemplating what brakes to put on their bikes, cyclists have all kinds of reasons to choose between disc or rim. But snow bikers, who often find their rims coated in a thick layer of ungrippable ice, have the best reason of all: Rim brakes could mean an icy death by gravity. Go with disc.

8. Re-lubricate and be free. There is nothing that will slow down a snow biker faster than having their hubs freeze up, which is always a possibility when the mercury drops below zero. We have to lube up our moving parts with a special low-temperature grease, sold widely in cold regions like Fairbanks and Minnesota.

9. Stay away from moose tracks. Common injures for road cyclists include road rash and head injuries. Mountain bikers have problems with broken collar bones and bad knees. Alaska snow bikers are always being tripped up by the deep, narrow holes moose leave when they walk through the snow. Avoiding these minefields will help curb post-holing injuries like broken ankles.

10. Stay away from dogs. We talk a lot about fear of angry moose, grumpy bears and rabid wolves, but our most likely animal to have a dangerous encounter with remains the sled dog. They approach so quickly and quietly that we sometimes don’t even have time to jump off the trail. A collision can be disastrous — imagine tangled lines, confused canines and a lot of sharp teeth. Add to that an annoyed musher who’s likely packing heat, and you stir up the kind of fear that convinces snow-bikers to give those racing puppies a wide berth.

Jill Homer blogs at Up in Alaska.

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New Right Turn Signal

New Right Turn Signal

AB247 becomes Nevada law on October 1, 2009. Here’s the gist of it:


Legislative Counsel’s Digest:

Existing [Nevada] law provides that every person riding a bicycle upon a roadway is generally subject to the provisions of chapter 484 of NRS which apply to drivers of vehicles. (NRS 484.503) Existing law requires the driver of a vehicle to signal an intention to turn from a direct course continuously during not less than the last 100 feet traveled in a business or residential district and not less than the last 300 feet traveled in any other area. (NRS 484.343) Section 2 of this bill exempts the operator of a bicycle from these requirements and instead requires the operator only to signal his intention to turn at least one time, unless the bicycle is in a designated turn lane or when safe operation of the bicycle requires the operator to keep both hands on the bicycle. Existing law provides for the methods of giving signals by hand and arm. (NRS 484.347) Section 3 of this bill authorizes an operator of a bicycle to signal for a right turn by extending his right hand and arm horizontally and to the right side of the bicycle.

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Today’s question: “Do I ride through this sand and glass along the curb or pull out into the traffic in the hope of avoiding a flat tire or a nasty fall?”

Here is a list of contacts for street sweeping at each of the local jurisdictions in northern Nevada: 


City of Sparks: 

http://www.ci.sparks.nv.us, eBetter Place or Ron Korman, 353-2271, rkorman@cityofsparks.us


City of Reno:

http://www.cityofreno.com, Reno Direct, 334-4636, renodirect@cityofreno.com

or Darrel Ellis, 334-2243, ellisd@cityofreno.nv.us

Each street in the City of Reno is swept 1 time each month in accordance with air quality standards. Some streets do get a lot of debris in the curb lines and bike lanes between sweeping.


Washoe County:

Bill Orozsi, 348-2180, worozsi@washoecounty.us

The County sweeps all paved streets every 6 weeks, and they try to sweep special requests as they receive them.



Dave Titzel, 834-8300, dtitzel@dot.state.nv.us

All of McCarran Blvd is now maintained by the state.

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