Nerd! On a Bike

Welcome to Nerd! On a Bike. This is where I slam on the brakes, push my sunglasses to the tip of my nose, furrow my brow and investigate things I find – or experience – while riding my bike. Topics range from geomorphology to women’s specific physiology. Biology. Geology. Natural history. Sports medicine. Nutrition. Psychology. Sociology. Anthropology. As long as it turns into a science-related question (including the social sciences!), you’ll find it in this section of the blog.

Stopping to smell the roses (or, more accurately, appreciate the cryptobiotic soil and Yucca baccata) in Sedona, Arizona.

When I’m training for a big event, my life seems to mimic the pace of a fast mountain bike descent, and I often worry slowing down enough to think about how or why things work the way they do may cost me the race. The high speeds make me feel frantic, and I forget why I’m riding my bike in the first place. I counteract this by tapping into my inner nerd, slowing the pace down, asking questions, putting the research skills I learned in graduate school to work, and appreciating the answers I find.

Photo Credit Artec Durham
I once rode my bike to a beach covered in baby Olive Ridley Sea Turtles! Did you know they use the light on the horizon of the ocean to find the water? If they hatch near a town or a city, street lights will often confuse them, and they may end up moving in the wrong direction and never making it to the ocean.

This desire for a slower, more inquisitive pace started when I was a child. My favorite summer afternoons were spent either sprawled in the grass reading or wandering alone in the woods looking for salamanders. Once, after reading a story about pioneer girls, I decided to make my own paint out of tent caterpillar blood. I thought this seemed like something pioneer girls would do, so I collected a bucket of caterpillars and spent the rest of the day squeezing out their bright green blood. The blood was hard to paint with – it glopped up and was filled with fuzzy caterpillar pieces – so I gave up on the caterpillars and went to the library where I found a book on making paint out of plants. That summer, I mastered the art of making my own paint.

My process for Nerd! On a Bike is similar. My initial response to questions may lead to piles of dead tent caterpillars (metaphorically speaking, of course), but in the end, I sharpen my research skills and find information that begins to answer my questions. In a nutshell, here’s the recipe: I experience something while riding my bike that leads to a question, I search extensively for answers to the question (in journal articles, academic studies, interviews), then I write about what I find and post it to Nerd! On a Bike.

Photo Credit Artec Durham
The arid southwest is the habitat I call home, but some of my races take me to humid climates. I’ve spent a lot of time researching how to get my body to adapt quickly to humidity.

Leave a Reply