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Preggo Velo: Cycle Touring While Pregnant
Posted: 26 Aug 2013 04:50 PM PDT
(Note: Before I launch into cycling with bun in oven, I want to remind you that
Cycling Sojourner Washington
is coming out next spring and you can back the project on
through Wednesday afternoon (3pm, Aug 28th) and get your copy before they hit the bookshelves. Plus, there are other great rewards to check out. The stretch goal is a party for backers! Be a part of the project with me!)
Back to the regular programming:
Don’t ride your bicycle when you’re pregnant!
That’s what lots of internet resources and “professionals” tell moms-to-be. Other sources say bicycling is fine in light moderation. There’s only a few good articles that I found on cycling when pregnant, no information about bicycle touring, and little information that I felt applied to me. The articles seemed to speak to pregnant women who wanted to be healthy and keep extra pounds off through exercise, not cyclists wanting to continue cycling.
So when I found out that Joe and I were having a baby (a very good, partial surprise and the reason my posts have been MIA) right before my on-the-ground research for Cycling Sojourner Washington began, I didn’t know quite how it all was going to work out, but I knew that I was going to figure it out by talking to bicycling moms in Portland and listening to my own body.
Lots of my friends who have biked for transportation almost until the end of pregnancy have been good role models. And there’s one friend, Katie Proctor, who even rode to the hospital while in labor! I’m not that tough, methinks. Find her magnificent essay about that experience in the collection of stories
Our Bodies, Our Bikes
(buy it at
Elyse G cycling at 39 weeks
Natalie Ramsland cruising
A wrench was thrown into my plan of being a bike touring super preggo. It was called morning (noon, night) sickness, a form of minor torture where you experience gnawing hunger and simultaneously find all food noxious (yet, if you don’t eat food, you feel worse).
The image of myself as a glowing harbinger of fertility gliding by on a loaded bicycle faded quickly and was replaced a haggard reality of experiencing what is akin to the first hours of a hangover all day long, without the fun night before.
How would I research my bicycle tours? The on-the-ground research is such a small portion of the time it takes to produce a guidebook, yet it’s one of the best and most essential parts when it comes to a guidebook’s quality.
I decided to give it a go and push off for a tour anyway. The drive to Tonasket, WA, the start of the Okanogan tour, was a feat in and of itself with the curvy roads and hours in a vehicle. Yet the next morning, Joe and I began to pedal. We knew that it was possible that touring wouldn’t feel right, and we would have to turn around.
An essential piece of the success of a tour such as this is either having along the best husband or partner in the world (which I do) or having fabulous friends (check). During my Washington tours, my partners humbled me with their concessions of generosity. They waited constantly while I kept my heart rate under 125 while climbing a pass, told me stories to distract me from the act of eating food, went into mini-marts that smelled like fried food to buy Vitamin Water so I didn’t have to, were patient with the mandatory post-breakfast rest, and the list goes on.
The gang near the Columbia River Gorge in Washington
Joe and me near the top of Washington Pass
That first tour, when we had no idea how I would react, was a miracle. My symptoms lessened. I felt joy again. My appetite made food slightly more possible. I don’t know whether the relief from pregnancy symptoms had do to reduced stress from leaving the day-to-day, the fresh air, doing something I loved, the gorgeous low-traffic Washington cycling, or just pure exercise. Maybe it was a combination. I really didn’t care either. I felt better!
Sure, I was obscenely slow while climbing. Maybe there were prideful pangs of nostalgia when I wanted to go faster. Yes, I resorted to taking restful naps on crumbling slabs of concrete, which might as well been a pillow top mattress.
When we returned from tour, I was optimistic about my evasion of the sickies. But the next day, they returned. And stayed. Well, that is they remained until the first day of my next tour. The same thing happened with the third tour.
Contrary to what one might have guessed, all I wanted (want) to do is be back out on tour, where I feel the best. I couldn’t (can’t) wait for the next tour. Back in the first 16 weeks, I would count the days down till we left on tour. Though there was a good chance I might dry heave at a diner during breakfast on the first day of tour, I always was good once I was on the road for a bit.
I’m really glad I pushed through to get my butt on a tour because it was my salvation. And, man alive, Washington bicycle touring is some of the best that I’ve ever experienced.
People lllllooovvveee to tell a pregnant woman what to do, but I will say that I believe women who pay attention to their bodies have access to one of the deepest sources of wisdom available.
By the way, don’t worry, this is not going to become a pregnancy blog. Soon I’m going to publish posts about the tours I’ve done in Washington. But I will get out another post or two about what I’ve learned about touring while pregnant, since there is no other source that I found about this. Insert cautionary disclaimer about cycle touring not being for everyone and consult your midwife or doc, etc.
Oh, and please consider backing the Cycling Sojourner Washington
that has been spearheaded by my partners at the fabulous
Bicycle Alliance of Washington
This guidebook is going to rule.
'Cycling Sojourner' guidebook on Oregon's best multiday bike routes offers a lot more than cue sheets
Published: Thursday, May 10, 2012, 5:46 AM
Friday, May 11, 2012, 4:04 PM
Laurie Robinson, The Oregonian
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Heading toward Mount Bachelor on the Cascade Lakes Highway.
It's probably safe to say that this is the first cycling guidebook that includes a photo of the author shooting a gun for the first time thanks to instruction from a coal miner she'd just met in eastern Oregon.
That scene unfolded when Ellee Thalheimer of Southeast Portland was researching a four-day bike route around the Wallowas. Stymied by snow in Halfway, she and her friends copped a ride in a monster truck with the miner and his Keystone beers and his guns and his country music. Thalheimer, 33, may be firmly entrenched in Portland's yoga and cycling culture but she keeps an open mind about learning to shoot.
Thalheimer's new book, "Cycling Sojourner: A Guide to the Best Multi-Day Tours in Oregon," is full of tidbits beyond route descriptions. (The route descriptions are notable, though, for being on perforated paper, with the map on the other side, so you can easily tear them out to take on the road.)
Thalheimer, a freelance travel writer who wrote the second edition of "Cycling Italy" for Lonely Planet, says she wanted to include the kind of all-encompassing info you want for a bike tour -- where to get good food, where to expect cell service, how to ride through a herd of cattle, plus historical tidbits (John Day, 1770-1820, whom the town and the river were named for, "was as manly, pompous and outdoorsy as they come ...").
There's been a void for that kind of cycling guidebook in Oregon, she says, which is why Cycle Oregon and Travel Oregon both supported her project financially.
View full size
Ellee Thalheimer gets impromptu shooting lesson from a local at a pullout on the road between Joseph and Halfway.
Thalheimer covers both ends of the spectrum from free BLM campgrounds to hotels with bike valet parking and pillow menus (i.e. the Oxford Hotel in Bend, where you get to choose what kind of pillow you like).
She includes eight multiday routes, from a beginner-friendly route through Willamette Valley wine country to the lung-buster up Steens Mountain in southeast Oregon.
Though "credit-card" cyclo-tourists (who needs a tent when you have a Visa card and a nice B&B where you can flash it?) are well served in the book, Thalheimer gives lots of tips for the frugal, too.
You don't need to sink three grand into a cyclo-touring bike, she says. Your commuter bike will do. Arm warmers are great, but cutting the toes out of an old pair of long wool socks for your arms works. If you don't want to spend big bucks on waterproof panniers, try those square bike buckets you see around town.
But if you want a bike built for cyclo-touring -- a bit sturdier than the typical road bike, with attachment points for front and back racks and with low gearing -- you could spend $1,000 or more, or you could spend as little as a few hundred dollars for a used one. Even on a tight budget, Thalheimer recommends springing for a good bike fit. Comfort is key.
Weight of the bike is less important than you might think for cyclo-touring, Thalheimer says.
"I'm not one of those cyclo-tourists that cut their toothbrush in half to save weight," she says. "I just tootle along."
"Cycling Sojourner" ($17.95) should be available later this month through Powell's and Amazon, which are taking preorders.
Thalheimer's Cycling Sojourner blog is at cycletouringoregon.com
Thalheimer's website also offers
oregon bike touring
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