Northtowne Cycling & Fitness in Cedar Rapids, IA - Home 2017 National Bicycle Dealers Association Award

1150 Blairs Ferry Road NE
Cedar Rapids, IA 52402
Phone: (319) 393-6557
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Bike Bits from Nikki D.

Cycling Success-Customer Stories

Jen & Chloe- Customer Stories

Jen came in just two years ago to look for a bike. As often happens, our Northtowne team really start to develop relationships that transcend the store. We see folks out riding on the trails and are always happy when they really embrace riding. Jen is one of these stories. I couldn’t reword her story better, so this is her story, interview style: How did that first bike and cycling change you? Here is our interview…in Jen’s words. What an inspiration!
1. Why did you start cycling?
I started riding to spend more time with friends, get in shape and for the meeting new people. My friends were talking about the trails and I’ve always enjoyed seeing people be active and was envious of all the fun they were having and stories they shared.
2. What is your favorite part of cycling?
I love riding the trails and exploring. It’s wonderful to cover so much area in really a short time. I love beating my personal best. Going further than I did on the last ride and making the milestones. 1st century, I was just 30 miles short of my 1000-mile goal last year. I had to have hip surgery in October (old injury) that prevented me from getting there.
3. Tell us about encouraging your daughter, Chloe,  to cycle....does she have friends that cycle?
Once I got my road bike, my daughter Chloe started to join me more and more (she started riding my Hybrid). It was a great way for us to spend time together and make memories. There were times she would grumble and want to go home and call it quits, but she always pushed on and was glad that she had. Now she gets excited about planning the next ride. Sunday, she completed her 1st official organized ride of 50 miles; to top it off with wind gusts up to 30 miles an hour. She killed it and was smiling at the end asking what ride was next. She was surprised at how hungry she was when she finished the ride. She couldn’t get enough of the delicious lasagna and chocolate cookies. Chloe said she is addicted and can’t wait to do more rides with us. She’s set a goal to ride in Ragbrai and TomRv next year. She’s a swimmer so I know she’ll be able to complete both.
My friends Kim, Larry and Kim’s daughter Aliyah also completed the ride with us and it was a great time had by all.
My boyfriend Steve started riding with me last year. His first ride was to Ely and he was surprised at how much easier it was on his knees vs. running. His son Zachary just started to join him and now will soon be upgrading his bike to something a little lighter. I get a kick out of the passion they have for riding.
4. How often do you cycle now?
I sadly haven’t been in the saddle as much as I’d like this year. I’ve only been out a dozen times. Now that I can trust my hip more, I plan to get in more miles.
5. What difference did you see when you went from a fitness-hybrid bike to a road bike?
I really enjoyed my hybrid, much more than the Big Box store bike I had. My daughter went out with me a few times and didn’t enjoy it as much as I did. As I rode more and more with my friends who had road bikes, I was envious of them and how they could pull away so quickly up a hill or wiz past me on a straight away. I wanted speed. I’ve always been kind of a speed freak. Less than a year later I was back in the store purchasing my first road bike. I love it. Is it worth it? YES, every penny.
6. What was your first Ragbrai like?
My boyfriend Steve and I joined up with a group of friends on Wednesday night and rode through to the end. It was both our first times on Ragbrai. (up to that point he’d only had 30 miles under his belt) I’d have to say initially it was riding with the masses on Thursday morning. I was mesmerized with the number of riders. I’d known there were a lot of riders, but to experience it in person… it was fantastic. What was a surprise? The number of young riders and old. This is when I started to think about the rides my daughter could do with me and that it really could become a tradition to join every year. What was fun? I liked meeting people from all over and chatting with them along the route. With all the people, you run in to over and over, you create a bond and can tease and cheer one another one.
7. What is your favorite piece of cycling equipment besides your bike?
I couldn’t live without the mirror on my helmet. Before I had one, I remember riding and constantly looking over my shoulder. Now I can see what is behind me always. I feel safer with it. I can’t forget about my Bluetooth speaker. Listening to music when I ride has made a difference in my riding experience. If I’m getting tired and feel like I’m losing my gusto, I change up my music to something that has nice beat to it. NF’s Therapy Session album is on my top 5 to listen to when I ride. Oh goodness and my (shoe) clips. I guess I can’t land on just one thing, to me it’s the complete package.
8. What kind of rides do you do now?
Most recently we competed the Freedom Bike Ride, GranGable, Hopbrai, Stiff Ride, and TomRV, which by far the most challenging to date.
9. Do you have friends that cycle?
Yes, most of my friend’s ride, although with our busy schedules we don’t seem to sync up as much as we did last year. That doesn’t keep us from making plans though. I’ve met a ton of wonderful people and stay in contact with them.
10. Do you see an increase in your cycling community?
I hear more and more people talking about cycling. Everywhere I turn I’m running into someone I know. I am surprised by the number of people who are taking up riding. It’s been wonderful to see the cities invest in the trail system and road markings. I’ve ridden from city to city town to town and there is room for improvements for sure, shoulders on the road make a huge difference to cyclists feeling comfortable on the road. I feel more comfortable riding the trail with my daughter for the sheer safety of it but I do enjoy the ability to get off the trials and experience the back roads of Iowa and Illinois. I know and understand we are sharing the roads with automobiles and we must be respectful of one another and not take for granted that either of us own the roads. I like to think of it as a partnership. Either way I enjoy the ride.
11. How have you seen cycling affect your health?

The last 12 years or so had been stressful for me and I guess you could say I was a stress eater and hadn’t been healthy, I was on medication and knew something needed to change.
I slowly started to cut out some of my unhealthy choices and stopped taking medication, I didn’t like how it made me feel. Once I started to ride more, I felt amazing and when I didn’t ride I didn’t feel the greatest. That’s when I really knew I was addicted to cycling and couldn’t stop taking about riding to anyone.
I stated to eat more fish, raw veggies and upped my water intake. The fat started to melt away and my body was stronger. I was surprised my arms were getting toned along with my abs and legs. I loved how strong I felt. I just felt better all around.

I believe it’s safe to say, I’m a cyclist for life!!

Commuter Stories & Moving On

Bike Bits by Nikki d.

I love Bike Month!  Bike Month was established in 1956, and I have loved embracing the focus on cycling when all of us are ready to get out and ride!  The National Bike Challenge, sponsored by the League of American Cyclists helps each of us track our commutes and recreational rides, for the benefit of all:  to see cycling IS a valid means of transport. 

Today, I want to tell you about two cyclists who use their bikes for commuting to work and for recreation.  These two just happen to be Northtowne Cycling & Fitness team members:  Kelly O’Meara and Dakota Peugh. 

Kelly O’Meara is part of our sales team.  Kelly started commuting for exercise…but then “It was just plain FUN!”  he said with a giant smile.  “It really gave me a sense of accomplishment, I liked not relying on my car.”  Kelly says the hardest thing to get used to was dressing for various temperatures.  “It was really trial and error.  With each temperature change, it took a few days for me to dial in what I needed to wear.  Some days…I got to work and I was too hot, some days I was too cold.  But now, I have it dialed in pretty good.”

Kelly has been commuting on his lime green KHS  fat bike since October of 2016.  He calls it his Work Truck.  He loves the fat bike because he doesn’t have to think about cracks in the road, curbs and of course, in the winter, he doesn’t need to worry about snow.  “But, it still is slower than your road bike, Right?” I asked.   “No, not really,” Kelly answered, “my road bike is fast, but I find I have to be more careful when I ride and avoid some areas, so, it really is about the same amount of time that I’m riding.” Kelly rides about 2-3 miles to work…not that far, but statistically, most people who commute by bikes are within 3-8 miles of their work. 

Kelly brings his lunch and other needs to work in a one strap messenger bag.  He does that to keep his Work Truck as light as possible…to go over those pinecones, twigs, curbs and cracks!  He loves riding to work because he feels much better when he arrives at work, physically and mentally.   Even after a long day on his feet, the ride home invigorates and refreshes him:  his back legs, and feet all feel better.

Kelly recommends 2 things:  LOTS of lights to be seen at all times of day, and to take advantage of the commuter tax credit($20) Link  if your business offers it.  He would commute though even without the credit….he just feels all around better when he bikes.  Bike On, Kelly!

Dakota Peugh is part of our service team.  He’s one of the guys who works on your repairs and is a bike builder as well! 

He has been commuting for 3+ years.   At first it was out of some necessity for transport, but that quickly gave way to him having a passion for bike commuting and general transportation use.  He has no car, and no interest in getting a car.  He loves being able to work on bikes during the day and play and ride in the evenings and on weekends.  He still enjoys his bike for FUN too….”Riding just doesn’t get old for me.”

“I live about 5 ½ miles from work,” Dakota says, “and have been commuting 4-5 days a week.  The toughest thing to get used to was battling the elements.  The snow, rain and excessive wind can be tough; but cycling is still something I look forward to…even in the tough weather.”

Dakota rides a Bianchi commute style bike in the summer, but for the winter it’s his Surly Pugsley Fat Tire bike.  He is a minimalist cyclist…meaning he generally wears his work clothes with a change in a shirt at work.  He carries his work clothes or other needs in a backpack.  One piece of apparel he really does like is his rain gear.  Other must have accessories he says, are his helmet and lights.  I do take advantage of the commuter credit that Northtowne offers….it helps pay for bike expenses that come up.  

Dakota would advise you to NOT be overly ambitious when you consider biking to work.  “Don’t think about biking to work EVERYDAY…to start.  Start small.  Maybe bike 2 days a week…or only on a nice weather days.  Think out your method…what you want to do…and go with that.  Build up to an everyday commute.

“The best thing about riding is that it is fun and relaxing,” Dakota says,   “Just think about it:  You get a bike and can ride whenever you want…for exercise, fun…I could go on and on.  My friends ride (many not as much as I do) but they encourage me…and I encourage them.   It’s just fun……”

Moving On:

This will be my last regular blog for Northtowne Cycling & Fitness.  You may catch other blogs of mine at   I am moving on from the Marketing & Outreach Manager to a new chapter in my life…but still around the area.  I have LOVED working at Northtowne and love both the staff and the customers I have served.  I have learned a lot about bikes themselves….and as I’ve told many of you…I am much more about the experience of riding, than the mechanics….but I am glad to say I know a lot more about the mechanics now. J

I feel certain Northtowne Cycling & I will cross paths in the future.  I was a Northtowne customer for many years beforehand, and knew the staff from working together in myriad advocacy issues in the area as well.   Perhaps some partnering down the road.  What I would encourage you the riders: …keep going!  Cycling on the trails or roads, in events, with friends, ‘beverage to beverage’ rides, and commuting….cycling WILL make you feel better physically and mentally, and will bring you a new group of friends who care.   Ahhh….Summer in Iowa!  I will still be leading the Meet Me at the Market rides at NewBo, and you will see me at various cycling rides.   Loving cycling always.   Be safe, be wise….and BIKE ON!  See you on the trail.  J

Lanesboro & Root River Trails

April 2017

I’ve been back in this area for a number of years, but for various reasons had never made it to Lanesboro/Root River…even after so MANY people told me I just HAD to go!

Finally, last year I went with friends in the fall.  Why am I writing about this now?  Because this place is so popular that many people make reservations for camping and hotels in the spring for a fall date. 

For Newbies:  Lanesboro is just one of the towns on the Root River Trail, which is located in SE Minnesota.  It is about another hour North of Decorah.  The trail runs through 10 towns. (contact info will be at the end of this article) You can also stop into Northtowne to pick up a very nice brochure and excellent map of  the trail. (free). 

The hard surface trail has flat areas and hilly areas. The hilly areas are on either end of the trail; the middle being relatively flat.  There are even shuttles that will take you to the hilly areas so that you can ride DOWN them instead of up (From Harmony down) Bluffs, streams, and historic information is along this trail.  There are places to raft and canoe as well.  My group saw eagles feeding in a few places along the river.

I camped in Whalen, around the center of the trail, right below bluffs that were breathtaking.  We went both east and west on different days.  As someone who loves history…I completely LOVED the museum in Peterson.  There was no charge for entry, but donations accepted.  And in that town I had the BEST SANDWICH at Burdey’s café…but they only stay open until about 4 pm on Saturdays…get there early…it is worth it. Don’t forget the pie store in Whalan, it’s on the corner…you won’t miss it.  There is plenty of parking in all towns…but remember to bring a lock for your bikes.

My group wasn’t able to go on to South Rushford and Houston because of a bridge closure for a few weeks, but even so we had plenty of trails to ride.  From Fountain to Houston is 42 miles, and from Harmony to Preston is 18 miles.   Often people ride specific parts of the trail due to time or elevation restrictions.  All of the towns are incredibly picturesque.  Lanesboro probably has the town with the most shops, although there are shops in most of the towns. A beautiful town park is in the center with restroom facilities.  The waterfall is there, and there is an Amish Farmers Market there on Saturdays in the summer. 

Families with young children do bike the flatter areas, but I would encourage you to teach your children (there and always) to RIDE RIGHT….meaning….always stay on the right of the trail for people to pass.  Those of you who are faster cyclists may want to go up during the week when there is less traffic.

If you can’t get a reservations for whatever time you want to go?  It can easily be a day trip…leave early for the 2.5 hour trip up there…spend the day and have lunch/dinner, and travel back in the evening.  It is worth the trip…don’t wait as long as I did!

Root River Trail- Whalan 


Customer Stories- Jerry & Jan

Jerry and Jan D. – Enjoying Retirement Biking

March 2017

When Jerry and Jan came into Northtowne, they had some slightly older models of the Specialized Crossroads bikes.  The comfort bikes were good and they liked them, but they kept seeing a lot of folks pass them up on the trail.  They also were retiring soon and thought they might take up cycling a bit more.  So they wanted to know the options out there…

A staff person spoke to them and after ascertaining what they were looking for zeroed in on the Cannondale Quick 4’s to their liking.  Happily they purchased and took their bikes home.  

Several weeks later, they were back in, a little concerned because Jan was having some issues with hand numbness.  Northtowne staff found some options to have Jan sit up just a bit more, so that she wasn’t leaning quite as much.  They change of the stem increased Jan’s comfort, and as a result, they are riding more. 

In the time they were using their comfort bikes, from 2008-2015, Jerry and Jan rode 776 miles.  In the last 12 months with their new fitness hybrid bikes (Cannondale Quick), Jerry and Jan have ridden 1000 miles!  And, they say with pride…..none of those 1000 miles were RAGBRAI® miles….all of them were done 10-20+ at a time.

Now they are discussing bike vacation options and trips they can take near the area….Decorah, Calmar, Heritage trail, and yes, Lanesboro and Sparta.  Retirement is great, and finding joy in being outside in creation…is something they feel blessed with. 

UPDATE March 2017-  

According to our bike odometers we each have ridden 1,621 miles this year.  We got out a road atlas and started plotting our trek across the United States starting in Portland, OR. We traveled to Biggs, OR, then to Pendleton OR, next to Boise, ID, then to Idaho Falls, ID, on to Casper WY, then to Sioux City, IA.  In reality we were 10 miles short of Sioux City, so we will winter in northeast Nebraska.  Our goal is to ride all the way to New York City in 2017.  (of course, it is much easier to ride over the mountains using a road atlas, then actually doing it)

Bike On Jerry and Jan!

Jerry and Jan D. – Enjoying Retirement Biking

January 1, 2017

Fitness Blog:  The Struggle to Stay Fit

All of us struggle in some way to stay fit:  Which category below do you fit in?

  1. Eat Right, Cardio, hate weights (ME!)
  2. Eat Right, love weights, no cardio
  3. Sporadic exerciser, but eat right
  4. Couch potato
  5. Eat Fruits, no veggies, exercise a lot
  6. Eat Veggies, few fruits, weights
  7. Hate exercise and eating right
  8. Cardio only

You will be barraged ad nauseum in the next 3 weeks about starting a fitness program:  from sales at bookstores for the newest healthy eating and exercise books and videos, to TV programming on healthy eating…to ‘Get in Swimsuit Shape’ commercials and specials for the local gym.  Then come comments from friends of yours, like the one I saw today…’Jan 3...starting the new diet again….determined!’

We all know that exercise and proper eating reaps benefits in a longer life, generally less disease, and a better quality of the life we have.  It’s the discipline of healthiness that is the issue.  Do I:

  • Exercise every day?
  • 20 minutes or an hour?
  • 10 minutes 3 times a day?

And how many times have we heard:  It’s only 30 days to develop a habit?

Those of you who have been in the store know I am no Skinny Minny (keep in mind….all Skinny Minny’s aren’t necessarily healthy either!)  I do the best I can.  And I don’t beat myself up when I fail on occasion.  And yes, on occasion I DO eat fried dill pickles.  That’s a treat.  I just don’t treat myself very often with those. J  

Here are my tips for you…maybe they will inspire you.  And please….feel free to email me your tips and tricks, and perhaps I can use those in a future blog to inspire others.

  1. You will never be 100% perfect at any program.  We are human.  Shoot for change, not perfection.
  2. Try to do better in 1 area:
    • Walk/bike instead of drive.
    • Eliminate one problem food from your diet for a time frame:  ie
      • French Fries once a week instead of daily
      • Pop on weekends only
      • Add a healthy food TO your diet (Salmon, greens, fruit)
  3. Get or USE a piece of fitness equipment once a week, and increase usage as it makes sense.
  4. Sign up for a program that will help you stay on track…an EASY program

                     i.      Fit Bit style watch

                     ii.     Gym membership

                    iii.     Live Healthy Iowa Challenge (January 23-March 31)

       5.  Lift hand weights during one TV program during commercials.

       6.  Add stretching and/or Yoga to your day:  Touch your toes, (or try) roll your shoulders, reach….

       7. Find a friend or spouse to help you stay on track that WON’T judge, but encourage.

I like being outside, but when I moved back to Iowa and found myself in possession of a treadmill, I was surprised that I DID like to run short distances on it as opposed to outside when the temps were frigid.  AND it made me push myself to run faster.

Northtowne Cycling & Fitness has fitness equipment that will grow with you as you try to stay focused.  We have treadmills, the most popular piece of exercise equipment, ellipticals, recumbent and upright bikes, and trainers.  We carry Landice, Spirit and True, and the Schwinn AirDyne.  Let us help you meet your fitness needs, in equipment, and inspiration.    As always, check with your doctor before you begin any exercise program.  They know your fitness capabilities…and are a great resource to encourage you! Browse Our Catalog

I am loving riding my fat bike outside!  And the fresh air and scenery inspires me as well.  But the discipline of the weights is something I do need to master.  That’s why I put my weights right next to the treadmill to use after I run on it.  Now…I need to get some weights in my living room.

Winning is Trying


Which is what I did:  what a LOT of people did:  what a community did! And we all WON!!

The GoCR Sac & Fox Enduro Fat Bike event was last Friday & Saturday.  130 people participated in the race itself, with many others joining to volunteer in behind the scenes capacity, or on race day or for family events that led up to the race, including a bike ride with Santa!

There were very skilled folks at the ride/race…and others who were fat bike beginners like me.  Even as a seasoned hard surface cyclist, there is a difference in riding a fat bike, and riding a fat bike off road.  The bumps, lumps and grassy areas gave one type of riding, and as the snow came down it DID become a bit slicker to navigate around rocks, trees and roots.

The winners of the race itself, listed below had a great time bringing in 11-12 laps. (3.75 miles each lap) But those who did less laps still had a good time.  I was thrilled with my 4 laps and happy I didn’t fall as it got a bit slippery.  Others with more and less laps than me felt the same; the energy at the event was contagious.

The beauty of the snow falling, the bare trees along the path, the bright colors of helmets, gear and bikes and the surprise of the Bacon and Beverage at the turn around point all made this first event memorable.  The encouragement of the volunteers along the way made the event even more special.  This first of what we hope is an annual event was supported by GoCR, Northtowne Cycling, Hall Bicycle Goldfinch, LAMBA and Specialized, Borealis, Kaddy Rack, CR Parks Dept., Bike Rags, and the Indian Creek Nature Center. 

 A number of people came out just to see what the race was really like.  To see how competitive it was.  I knew I wasn’t going to ‘win’, I pulled off the single track when someone fast was behind me.  I walked my bike across the wood bridge.  I stopped SEVERAL times for bacon and beverage.  I wasn’t the only one cautious…and that made it fun.  As I said in another post, I was a bit apprehensive to do the event because I have just gotten my fat bike (Specialized Helga-Coral…woo HOO!)

There were many beginners there, like me.  Some folks did 2 laps…I’m guessing maybe even some did one lap.  Bottom line….they won because they tried.   Some look at winning as showing up.  And sometimes it is.  To me, winning is overcoming something that makes you apprehensive.

Winning is Trying!  Congrats to all the winners, those who placed and those who participated.  And next year….I know some new folks will be trying….and WINNING!


Men's Champion, Michael Maney, Cedar Falls

Men's 2nd Place, John Peters, Cedar Rapids

Women's Champion, Mary McInnis Meyer, Cedar Falls 

Women's 2nd Place, Sarah Barber, Cedar Rapids

First Place Team (all from Cedar Rapids) - Michael Heffern, Scott DeVore and Mark Chipokas

Dead Last, Jon Jacobs, Cedar Rapids

Spirit Award, Thaddeus Walters, Cedar Rapids


What is an Enduro Ride?

GoCR Sac & Fox Fat Bike Enduro –My first?

What is an Enduro Ride?  That is a question staff at Northtowne has heard a number of times since the GoCR Sac & Fox Fat Bike Enduro event was announced in October.  Enduro, in this particular instance, refers to an endurance style event. Northtowne is helping to sponsor this FUN and non-competitive ride, and you just might see some Northtowne staff participating too.

For the upcoming GoCR Sac & Fox Fat Bike ride, you must have a fat bike to compete.  This will be a 3 hour ride.  There will be a 3 mile course that will be done by either individuals or teams of 2 or 3.   The person(s) will ride laps of dirt, mud, snow and then pass off to the next person for them to do the next loop. A loop will take about 20-25 minutes depending on terrain and skill level of the rider.  The team and/or person with the most loops in 3 hours will be the winner(s).  The other team members who aren’t riding will wait for those riding to return.

The course will be a beginner type course, and this event is a fun event, not only focused on pace.  There will also be kids activities from 10am until noon, so the event will be fun for the entire family.  If all goes as planned, this will be my first Enduro Fat Bike event!

I’m excited to do it, but I that know I’m a beginner.  I just got my fat bike…a women’s geometry, Specialized Helga.  She is a coral pink with purple and aqua stripes. If you’ve been in the store, you know I’ve been pumped about it!

I did have one friend come in and say my bike was MUCH too clean.  Lol!  Well, I plan to get it dirty at the GoCR Sac & Fox ride on December 10th. If you don’t have a fat bike…just come out and see what it’s like to ride one!  There will be some fat bikes out there for you to try…just so YOU can see what the buzz is about.  This is to be an annual event…so…come out and join us!

Customer Stories-Fitness-Bri & Kasey

Brianna gave up riding bikes when she wasn’t comfortable riding.  Even though several members of her family were very active cyclists….it held no interest for her.  Being 6’1” didn’t help; the fits from big box store bikes didn’t work, nor was she able to talk to a knowledgeable person at those stores about bike fit and the importance of it.

Finally a family member convinced her to go to a bike store to be fit on a bike properly.  She reluctantly accepted a comfort hybrid bike as a gift.  Her partner Kasey, also got a comfort hybrid bike and they started to ride together.  Primarily, the rides were at the Meet Me at the Market program that is a led bike tour from NewBo City Market each Thursday night during the summer.

Brianna and Kasey learned many of the trails in the city through those rides.  Then a bike ride event came up (JDRF) and they decided to try it.  They met a number of people on that ride, and not only continued to put lots of miles in, but they also got involved with JDRF. (They have a young family member diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes - T1D)

Fast forward 1 year:  After putting many miles on their comfort hybrid bikes (one a Specialized CrossRoads and one a Cannondale Adventure 3), they made two big decisions:  One, they were going to move up to a faster, lighter bike…and two, they were going to ride a 100 mile in a day fundraiser for JDRF in August. 

Cannondale Quick 4 and Quick 5 were the bikes they settled on and they have been riding and training for the 100 miles in a day ride.   Kasey and Brianna liked riding so much, they held a JDRF fundraiser event in the spring and had a silent auction for Specialized Sirrus Bike.  The folks that won the silent auction, ALSO decided on riding in the 100 mile ride, and have been training for that as well.

The ride came and went.   Bri and Kasey were nervous when they started, and several times felt like giving up.  But they did it!  Along with other cycle enthusiasts and supporters of JDRF.  The money raised for Eastern Iowa JDRF is $164,600.  Bri and Kasey are happy to contribute to that amount so that a cure can be found for Type 1 Diabetes, and they are thrilled that they have adopted biking in their active lifestyle.

Their cycling family members are happy they have adopted the sport.  And they passed their love onto more extended family members as well.   Love of cycling triumphs once again!


The Fun of RAGBRAI®

The Big RideI Love doing RAGBRAI®, with the team I ride with (Team Wimpy) and my siblings.  The stories that I tell later make me smile all over again.  Sadly, I have not done the complete week ride for several years:  weddings and other events have used up my vacation time.  But as others prepare and go off on the Saturday before, my heart is with them. 

One of the more recent RAGBRAIs® that we had here in Cedar Rapids, I actually worked on the committee, so I could only ride the Friday leaving Cedar Rapids.  It was very good working on the committee to see how the decisions were made behind the scenes that culminated with the ride through Cedar Rapids. 

That being said…each RAGBRAI® has myriad stories that I tell and TONS of fond memories.  Things I’ve done on RAGBRAI®?

  • Froze-sat at a farm, shivering drinking coffee….45°
  • Sweated
  • Held baby pigs
  • Raced toilets
  • Watched ‘Sister Act’ nuns singing
  • Held a lion cub
  • Swung from a rope swing into a pond
  • Slip n Slide-ed into a pond(s)
  • Took a Gyrocopter ride above farms on my birthday
  • Rode countless hills
  • Saw awesome vistas
  • Visited a historic jail…and was in it with my siblings!

Nikki at RAGBRAIThose are just a few of my experiences over a 14+ times I’ve ridden.  Made tons of friends and memories along the way.  Those big tours test your mettle (the camping is really the hardest thing on RAGBRAI®, not the miles) and boost your confidence in riding.  And digital photos….yepper…that is instant gratification!

Riding with other folks on any big tour brings a great feeling of comradery.  These relationships last a long time.  Follow your riding friend online if you can’t ride…their enthusiasm will encourage you to ride next year, or if not, at some future one.  I always tell folks, if you are a cyclist RAGBRAI® should be on your bucket list…there is No other FUN like it!!  `

For more details, visit

Bike to Work?  Not me…..

So…you are enjoying biking on the trails in your area.  You love weekend biking.   You have joined with friends that bike and you’ve become ‘addicted’ to the fun.

There is another step in your biking experience.  Have you considered biking to work?  NOOOO….I can’t do that!  Here are just some of the objections:

  • I’ll be sweaty when I get there
  • I don’t have the time
  • I need my bike at work for appointments or errands
  • I have to drop off my kids at daycare
  • I live too far away from my work

These objections are valid.  Yep…they ARE.  But you don’t have to bike to work every day.  Read that again….it doesn’t have to be every day.   When you think of it in those terms…it opens up a whole new way of looking at biking to work.

Think about riding one day a week to work.  Maybe it’s every Monday.  Maybe it’s every Wednesday.  You pick what would work.  If it rains? Ok…go the next week. (or switch days if possible)  Sometimes professionals have appointments that they must drive to for various reasons.  Think ahead and schedule those appointments on non-riding days.  If you have kids to drop off, yes, that can be worked in.  What if you and your partner alternate dropping off the kid(s)?  Live too far away?  Find a place to drive and park and ride the rest of the way in to work.  Start brainstorming options and you will find a way. 

Most folks live between 3-5 miles from their homes.  At a slower 10mph pace (you don’t HAVE to race to work) it takes about 15-20 minutes to ride to work, plus stoplights. J You can bring with you a complete set of clothes to work, or just change out your shirt.  Baby wipes are great for clean up if there is no shower at work.  You can leave shoes at work so that those don’t have to be carried.

The other BEST EVER biking advice I’ve ever received was from Paul S., an engineer at a local large aviation and communications company:  “Put a rack on your bike”, he said, “as soon as you do that you will use your bike much more.”  He was right!  And that rack can handle all sorts of business and bike equipment that you need to bring with you!

May is Bike Month, and May 16-May 20 is Bike to Work week across the nation.   Many municipalities have Bike to Work events for the community to participate in.  Check in the paper, online, or at bike shops…they should be aware of the events.

Bike ON!!

Beverly Park and LAMBA

Beverly Park and LAMBA

The weekly ride starts at 6pm.  They have rides at the Squaw Creek Park and the Sac and Fox trail as well.    Sometimes there are also trail maintenance opportunities to be involved in, and other social and biking events like the Fat Tire Frenzy that is coming up on May 1.  

LAMBA promotes mountain biking and trail conservancy in all aspects, and is affiliated with IMBA (International Mountain Bike Association)  LAMBA also manages a local website   You can stay up to date on trail conditions there as well, or you can check out and like the Lamba Facebook page: 

Northtowne is one of the proud sponsors of LAMBA.  Northtowne's staff member Barry M. is on the LAMBA board, and loves to talking mountain biking and fat tire biking.  You've may have seen photos of Barry working on trail maintenance as well.  

If you haven’t had a chance to check out Beverly Park and LAMBA’s events….take this opportunity!

Barry M. Trail Maintanence at Beverly Park

Thinking about a Triathlon?


Thinking about a Triathlon? Dan T. and Brita L. will inspire you!

From Sprints to a half Ironman, I have done a number of Tri’s and it is the only activity that I have ever felt like I was really competing.  I don’t too badly on the swim and bike, but I am a slow runner. The variety of activities gives a full complement of healthy activities.  Hear more about the sport of Triathlons from Dan and Brita, Midwest Tri Club members. 

Read Dan and Brita's Stories

Is it Too Cold to Ride? - Winter Fun Rides

FUN weekend…I hope for all!  Were you at the Iowa Bike Summit where you could bid on products?   See some new bike products?  Or were you at one of the other many RAGBRAI® route announcement events in the area?  Or did the cold weather scare you away?

I rode this weekend with Team WASP and other cycle enthusiasts for the SURLY R.A. P. ride.  Some folks on fat bikes, some on comfort bikes and some on fitness bikes…there were even a few road bikes!  Not a long ride…but what fun!  A lot of people may have thought it too cold but it seemed fine for me.  Therein lies the question:  When is it too cold to ride?  It was partly sunny and mid to upper 20’s.   

Everyone has to find their own “it’s too cold” point.  So just try with different options of clothes, and continue to go out when it’s a bit colder than the last time…until you find the “I can’t take it anymore” point for you. My ‘line’ is that I don’t normally ride when there is ice on the streets.  I don’t have studded tires, or a fat bike, so I am not as comfortable.  The trails/streets in my area usually get cleared, but even so, I always watch for ice.

Some Winter Fun rides are longer—especially if you are riding fat bikes on trails out in the country-side.  Other rides, such as the SURLY-Team WASP ride, or the upcoming IDIDARIDE, go from place to place so that you can warm up in-between.  Those are shorter rides…and a great way to see if you like riding in winter.  It’s also good to see your cycling friends out and about!

I rode with a base layer, a fleece vest and Pearl Izumi barrier jacket.  I had on my fleece lined running pants as well, and put another pair of outer pants in my bag in case I got cold.   Bike gloves and 2 options for a face shield completed my stylish attire.  I’ll just talk about my favorite piece of clothes…and the face shield.

One of the things I recommend at Northtowne, or when I am anywhere around cyclists is the Pearl Izumi Barrier Jacket.  I cannot stress enough how well made and versatile this jacket is.  The newer ones have zip off sleeves which is the BEST. INNOVATION. EVER.  These jackets go year round, cool mornings or evenings, rainy, misty summers and outer wear warmth for winter.  For some yes, a bit pricey…but…mine is 19 years old…so yep…they last quite a while!

Another great piece for cold weather riding is the Balaclava.  (No, that is NOT the Greek pastry: Baklava) The Balaclava is more or less a fabric shield that can cover your face, neck and/or ears. You pick the coverage you want.  A lot of people get cold on the chest, so a wind barrier there is invaluable. Some folks like the full coverage of the balaclava under the helmet, over the ears, and down the neck.  Some are fabric only, some are fabric with wind barrier and some have brims on the cap portion.  Again, pick the one that will suit YOUR needs.

Winter bike riding is fun and refreshing!  Exercise, fresh air and friends is a great way to make a memory. Check out the photos below…and think of a ride you might like to try.  And after you try the fun rides….you can consider stepping up to cycling to work…


Biking in Cold Weather - Commuting or Recreationally

I never rode my bike in the winter until I was challenged by a friend of mine who rides almost every day in the winter.  Since that challenge several years ago, I have ridden in temps down to 8 degrees, and it doesn’t bother me in the least.   I still like being outside year round, even in Iowa, where it can get pretty cold.  On sunny days the brisk weather feels good to me.  Remember when you used to ice skate?  Or perhaps you ski….those are outside activities that you can alter some attire for cycling and have it work for you as well.

So I will challenge you to think about winter cycling as well. Whether for recreation or commuting, you can still enjoy cycling.  Start by taking a short ride….3-5 miles, on a mid-cold day…say 45 degrees.  Progress to a colder day and maybe a bit more mileage.   You will find the point that you really don’t want to ride outside anymore….but you will also know the point that you CAN ride when it’s chilly.

I am aware that I am a no frills rider, but here are some things to be aware of and products that might help you enjoy riding in cool weather.  And yes, many bike focused buesinesses (read eateries) are still OPEN in cool weather.   Sounds like a ‘date night’ to me!  Bike on!   


  • Mountain bikes have stability in the winter, and that is what I purchased years ago for winter riding as well as some trail riding.  It has much better traction than my road bikes.  
  • Fat Tire bikes were actually developed for winter riding.  They are a hoot to ride and offer more stability than a mountain bike.  They are not as heavy as they look. I tend to ride when the roads are clear or mostly clear, but with the stability of a Fat Tire bike you will have more options for riding in snowy weather.

If you have a newer mountain bike, it probably has disc brakes, which help with stopping in wet conditions.  Most Fat Tire bikes are equipped with disc brakes as well.


  • Layers are essential. Your torso should be warm.  Take care to not over-layer; you will warm up as you pedal.  My T-shirt, a fleece jacket and outer layer does well for me in the coldest weather.  Our Pearl Iszumi light weight and mid weight jackets are perfect for layering.  We also have all purpose tights in stock are great for winter riding, running or skiing.
  • Hands, feet and head are the areas that need the most attention for winter cycling. 
  • Bar Mitts will cover your bars and keep your hands warm.  Just slip hands into the mitted area. Cycling gloves with full coverage are good.  I’ve also found that gloves that have a ‘mitten’ fold over the glove area keeps you warm.  You want your fingers warm, but you still need to be able to operate you brakes/gears.
  • Boots/Shoe Covers   These are designed to keep wind, moisture and cold at bay. Shoe covers are just what they say:  they will go over your regular cycling shoes and you will still be able to clip in.  Boots are a complete system that allows you to clip and give even more protection from the elements.  Boots and shoes cover your ankles/shins so that you are dry and warm there as well.  Boots can run from $200 and up, you can get shoe covers for about $70 and up.
  • Head Covers   A good head cover will protect your ears from wind and cold.   I prefer a ‘beanie’ style under my helmet.  Mine is fleece.  Don’t get a cap that is knit…wind and cold go through that material.  There are also covers that go over your helmet…more water proof so that your head doesn’t get cold or wet, which can happen with the beanie style.

I hope this has jump-started your thought process for cycling in the winter.   Think about it....try just might like it!

Rides of Your Life-Vacation Rides

Well, RAGBRAI has come and gone.   Did you ride?   I did not get to ride this year….and as I saw riders come into Northtowne to have bikes fixed up by our AWESOME service department, and pick up those little things that make the ride easier, (Gloves, lube, shorts, and bags) I felt a little left out.  I miss my vacation on a bike.

I’ve done 15-16 RAGBRAI’s, 12 or 13 full and about 4 ‘parts’.   Love the tour!  On a team (Wimpy) or supported by RAGBRAI itself….it showcases Iowa and is wonderful because you meet folks from all around the U.S. and all around the world.

That said, there is still lots of summer left and there are myriad other tours you can do:  Day self-supported ‘tours’ like the ones I mentioned in my last blog, event tours, such as the Culinary Ride, HOPBrai, or HiBRAI, that are coming up in this area and are a lot of fun.  These can be done as a family, couples or individually.  Then there are the vacation bike tours here in the USA or abroad. Those can be quite nice, with hotels and concierge services, or some that are supported by folks taking great care of you….but still tenting.  Some have options of either/or.

I’ve been on some Bike Vermont tours that are awesome…taking place in the White Mountains and near Woodstock.   Those are a luxurious (as compared with RAGBRAI) tour…where you get a mint placed on your bike each morning…delicious breakfasts and dinners at the B&B lodgings.  Many are in areas where there are places of interest to tour (Like the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream or Vermont Teddy Bears.)

I have wonderful lasting memories of these tours! There is nothing like seeing a beautiful place in the United States on a bike.   You meet folks (everyone talks to cyclists) and you can really have a better understanding of the area and what makes it special. 

So, as you wind down your summer, and consider a bike trip.  We have a variety of bike racks at Northtowne that will make it easy to take your bike with you.   If you Google Midwest Bike Tours, you will find a variety available with camping or hotel options.   Fall tours are great as well, here in the Midwest, or the Northeast of the country.  

At Northtowne, we try and have a list of upcoming events in the area for you to consider.  Check out our FACEBOOK page for the most recent entries….let us help you get ready for the next ride of your life!

Bike Tours

What's Out There?

Spring has sprung…and summer is just around the corner and the possibility of fun on your bike is endless.   What trails, events or rides have you enjoyed most?

Exploring new places is just one of the many advantages of cycling.   Even though the High Trestle Trail has been opened since 2011, I still haven’t made it over there…but I have plans this summer to experience the trail; in the day light but also as it is lit up at night.  We’ve planned an outing with friends.

I have enjoyed the Heritage trail and the Trout Run Trails.  They are both beautiful and offer scenic variety.   They are both day trips you can do, and still have time to relax at your home in the evening  or to still get that evening work done.

Heritage Trail Heritage Trail Heritage Trail

Have you tried the Heritage trail from Dyersville to Dubuque? A beautiful trail, meandering along open fields, creeks and small rocky ledges.  This 26 mile trail (one way) is relatively flat.  Photo opportunities abound.  It varies shade and open sun, you’ll see bridges and various wild life, along with a cow or two.   Both Dubuque and Dyersville have eating places close near the trail end, so where ever you start you will be able to have refreshments half way through…plus there are a few options near towns near the trail as well.

Decorah Trail Decorah Trail

Another beautiful trail is the Decorah Trout Run Trail.  This 11 mile loop has scenic vistas that beg for cameras…or maybe just enjoying sans the camera.  It is a bit more challenging since it is hilly, but is a doable ride.  Even if you were to get tired going up hills on your bike, you can walk, the vistas are spectacular. In fact…I’d encourage you to get off your bike and look around at some of the points.  This trail is good for families too, as the Trout Hatchery is a fun place to stop and visit and feed fish at .25 per handful.  It’s located right off the trail.  Various areas are available that provide shade on a hot day.   There is also the Decorah Eagle Nest (look up!) which is watched by thousands on the eagle cam.  Art is in various places on the trail as well.  Then whether you do the trail one loop or two, you can also go into Decorah and explore there. 

These trails are all accessible with a road or hybrid bike.  Paved and/or limestone…I took my road bike on both and had no problems.  I love exploring places with my bike….for me it helps me to see my world as a place of peace and refreshment.  Iowa has some beautiful trails….so….get on your bike and find out…What’s out there?

Nikki d.

May 2015

My Bike Makes Me Smile

Bike Bits - Pink Rocket

I have advocated for biking in the Cedar Rapids area since 2008 when I worked for a local major company.  And bikes have made me smile since I was a kid feeling the freedom that a bike gives you to explore far and wide.

As an adult, it still gives me a smile.   I love the freedom for sure…but it also helps me stay focused on my fitness goals as well.  We all live busy lives and sometimes it is hard to fit in (or have energy for) exercise at the end of the day.  That is why I like my bike for fitness.  I can ride to work and back and get some exercise in.  If I’m tired….a bike ride will rejuvenate me. 

You might get bored if I tell you that on average you can use up anywhere from 250-600 calories per hour when you ride depending on your weight, terrain and speed.  That’s a wide span….but it shows that we all ride differently and are built differently.  I also know biking also builds muscle, burns fat, and helps your cardiovascular system, among many other health benefits.

But, the bottom line for me is that my Bike Makes Me Smile.  And if I’m smiling when I exercise, whether I am riding to work, going on a recreational ride with family or friends, or enjoying one of the many group rides I do, the smile means I’m going to bike more often.

Oh...and one other thing….when I go into a bike store?  THAT makes me smile too:  Eye Candy—ya’know?



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